Customer Stories

signNow helps a community college survive the COVID-19 crisis by providing eSignatures for higher education

Rend Lake College uses signNow's eSignature for higher education to maintain its ongoing operations & the continuity of learning process.

If there’s a silver lining to the consequences of COVID-19, it is how humanity learned to make use of technology to stay afloat, regardless of the circumstances. Like so many academic institutions around the world, the U.S.-based Rend Lake College (RLC) had to quickly adapt to the changing landscape of on-campus life suddenly being put on hold. COVID-19 and the ensuing lockdown was the impetus for RLC to adopt digital document workflows, which allowed the institution to maintain its ongoing operations and the continuity of the learning process.

When the need to implement eSignatures for higher education and campus became too urgent to ignore, Rend Lake College chose signNow. Today, college staff and students enjoy paperless workflows and the ability to sign documents from anywhere and on any device. And apparently, they have no intention of going back to traditional pen-and-paper methods any time soon – even now as the campus is gradually coming back to life.

Customer profile

Rend Lake College is a public community college in Southern Illinois. With around 1,500 students and 350 full-time and part-time faculty members on board, RLC runs its educational programs across two campuses located in Ina and Pinckneyville.

Challenges before adopting signNow eSignatures for higher education

  • The need to handle paperwork remotely: When COVID-19 struck, Rend Lake College had to shut down on-campus teaching and switch to remote learning. As students and the faculty continued working remotely, there was still paperwork that had to be dealt with. Schedules, statements, contracts, registration forms, evaluations, financial aid documents, and more – these still had to be promptly delivered and signed by students and employees. The issue quickly escalated into a major challenge.
“It was definitely COVID that led us to finally do something about it, about 15-16 months ago. Everybody had to go home, but we still had documentation to be signed, sealed, and delivered. It was hard to do that if you couldn’t physically shovel it around”.
Chad Copple,
Associate Vice President for Institutional Outreach at RLC
  • The lack of paper document traceability: Every organization that depends on paper-based workflows knows how quickly paper piles up and creates clutter. It is hard to store, manage, and track paper documents without them occasionally getting lost or misplaced. Rend Lake College faced the same challenge before they discovered the benefits that signNow holds for the higher education industry.

“We had forms that required signatures that lived in so many different places, whether it was contracts or registration forms, or evaluations, or whatever. Sometimes it was hard to know where to go to get one.”

— Chad Copple

Solution: signNow for universities, colleges, and other educational institutions

Before COVID-19 broke out, Rend Lake College had already contemplated the idea of using eSignatures for the campus. Several college employees tried using an eSignature solution by one of signNow’s competitors. However, it was not adopted institution-wide over the long term, so the usage of electronic signatures remained limited to a few individual use cases.

“The pandemic forced us – and lots of other organizations – to take a couple of giant technological leaps forward. We had been looking at digital signature solutions before, but there was never any pressure to introduce it on campus.”

— Chad Copple

In the wake of the pandemic, the need for a comprehensive eSignature software became more of a necessity than ever – to facilitate off-campus work and telecommuting. Therefore, the administration at RLC created an ad-hoc committee to select an eSignature solution that would satisfy the needs of college staff and students.

After considering the pricing, features, and benefits that different competing eSignature providers had to offer, Rend Lake College finally decided to go with signNow. Several members of the committee and some heavy hitters around the campus were selected to become signNow pioneers at RLC.

Once the initial set-up and testing were completed, signNow was successfully introduced across multiple college departments:

  • Student Records
  • Financial Aid
  • Student Grants
  • Human Resources
  • Virtual Student Advisement

“We had forms that required signatures that lived in so many different places, whether it was contracts or registration forms, or evaluations, or whatever. Sometimes it was hard to know where to go to get one.”

— Chad Copple

In addition to using standard eSignature workflows, Rend Lake College has also integrated signNow with SharePoint, which is part of their intranet.

“Faculty used to be pulling down forms to fill them out on paper and signing them. With the help of our IT guys, we now have the flow when the needed document simply pops to the right person with signNow access. Every form now flows electronically. We have around 20 faculty forums set up in this way. signNow and SharePoint are really playing well together.”

— Cathy DeJarnette, Executive Director of Administrative Services at RLC

Results achieved with signNow for campus organizations

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Faster document cycles: The administrative personnel at Rend Lake College was impressed by how much faster documents were returned using signNow. For the most part, it now takes no more than a day to get documents signed, which plays a huge part in accelerating day-to-day operations at the college.

“Internally, document turnaround happens many times in the same day. Terry [Wilkerson, the College President] can literally approve something that minute. I for one don’t get much paper at all in the mail anymore internally for something to be signed. It all goes through signNow. That’s been a huge bonus.”

— Cathy DeJarnette

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Remote work opportunities for college staff: Before introducing signNow, Rend Lake College had no work-from-home policy whatsoever. All college employees had to show up at the office to perform their duties. Now, some teams across the RLC campuses have the option to work remotely because they can handle paperwork electronically from anywhere.

“We were seeing some data from our compatriots in Illinois about how many of their IT departments are able to work remotely now. There are some things we definitely don’t want to lose out of all of this, signNow being a big one”

— Chad Copple

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Improved document traceability and reduced clutter: Since most of the paperwork is done digitally via signNow at Rend Lake College, it is now much easier to keep track of documents and maintain order at the workplace.

Long-term effects

Campuses across the U.S. are getting back on track and students are gradually returning to traditional face-to-face learning. However, many digital solutions introduced during the lockdown are still being actively used due to their indisputable value. Having recognized the value of signNow, Rend Lake College is planning to continue using it even when the pandemic is finally in the rear view.

“As we’ve mentioned, Virtual Advisement were using signNow big time because they needed student signatures for consent purposes. Now that they are meeting face-to-face, the advisors are still using signNow! They ask students to sign forms right on their phones, simply because they know that, in this case, they will get all the paperwork back immediately.”
Cathy DeJarnette

The college administration rightfully believes that there is much more to signNow than what they’ve already discovered and implemented. They have no intention to go back to paper-based document signing, even though nearly everyone is now back on campus.

“The college administration rightfully believes that there is much more to signNow than what they’ve already discovered and implemented. They have no intention to go back to paper-based document signing, even though nearly everyone is now back on campus.”
Chad Copple
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