Thinking about going paperless?

Author: Dana Bakirtjy

Less Paper, More Value.

Ten years ago the idea of going completely paperless on a college campus would have been unheard of. However, thanks to the introduction of new technology and processes, a paperless existence has been adopted by individuals, offices, and departments across Notre Dame.

“I was frustrated with carrying around a bunch of different pieces of paper, writing things on different pads, and coming back to piles of paper everywhere around my office,"  said Mike Daly, Senior Director of Project Management for Planning, Design and Construction. "It was hard to keep track of and find what I needed” 

As a project manager for the Architect’s office, Mike is constantly in and out of meetings with stakeholders. Although his clients change daily, he’s found one thing to be consistent: “everyone wants to communicate electronically.” After getting frustrated with the traditional method of taking and organizing notes by hand, he started exploring options to rid himself of paper.

Out of the 18 project managers in the Architect’s office, 12 have adopted the use of tablets on an everyday basis and there are plans to transition the remaining six over by the end of the year. Everyone keeps track of their projects in OneNote, a Microsoft Suite software that allows for the creation and sharing of individual notebooks. These notebooks not only allow for the seamless integration of photos, videos, text and screen grabs, they are also cloud based and lend themselves to being easily shared- a feature enjoyed by those working on teams.

Project managers aren’t the only people going paperless though. The trend is catching on throughout campus says Ron Kraemer, Vice President of the Office of Information Technology, and Notre Dame’s Chief Information and Digital Officer.

OIT recently purchased 100 iPads for classroom use as part of a program that aims to both provide students with an alternative to buying standard course materials and improve sustainability by cutting down on printing waste. Grown from a wildly successful pilot program introduced in 2012, iPads are now utilized by four to five classes a semester for out-of-class discussion as well as collaboration through the use of a variety of applications.

One such example is Professor Ed Edmonds’ Advanced Legal Research class. Professor Edmonds, the Associate Dean for Library and Information Technology, explains “since students are becoming more and more accustomed to looking up information online instead of in a physical library, we decided to adapt to meet both them and the evolving industry.” In Edmonds’ class, research is done, homework is completed, and feedback is all received electronically, which helps to save over 2000 sheets of paper each semester in his class alone.  

In addition to academics, departments like Building Services have also begun taking steps to go paperless. The introduction of iPad mobile offices for custodial staff has given supervisors the ability to remotely inspect all areas of campus as well as order supplies and process custodial supply orders in the field. “The integration of the iPads has really helped to streamline our efforts” said Chris Hatfield, Director of Building Services. “We have been able to reduce errors, improve efficiency, and show our commitment to sustainability at the same time.”

The benefits of going paperless reach far beyond decluttering, organizing, and streamlining work; the choice is also a sustainable one. The U.S. pulp and paper industry is the third largest industrial polluter to air, water, and land in both Canada and the United States and releases well over 220 million pounds of toxic pollution each year. Further, paper consumption has tripled since 1960 and Americans put 85 million tons of paper into the waste stream annually.  

According to a report by Javelin Strategy and Research, if every U.S. household switched from paper billing to viewing and paying bills online, the switch would save 16.5 million trees, decrease emission of greenhouse gasses by 3.9 billion pounds (the equivalent of taking 355,000 cars off of the road), and reduce fuel consumption by 26 million BTUs—enough energy to provide residential power to San Francisco for a year.

So how do I do it?

“The number one thing would be to have the right tools on whatever device you use. You have to feel comfortable with your device or you’re going to revert right back to the paper world” says Kraemer.

One opportunity to accomplish this is provided by the OIT in the Mobile Innovation Center and Mobile Device Lab. Located in the offices of OIT’s Academic Technologies Lab in DeBartolo B003, the MIC and MDL serve as a resource for students, faculty, and staff to try out mobile devices, discover new trends and improve their mobile skill set.

Additional resources provided by the OIT include basic classes in mobile technology platforms and mobile compatible software such as OneNote, Box and Google Drive which are all accessible on eNDeavor.  

Although there may be a learning curve to adjusting to paperless work, “getting over the hurdle is definitely worth it” says Mike Daly. “I’d definitely recommend it.”