Higher learning, transformed.
CSU Fullerton puts technology in service of student success with Adobe Experience Cloud, Document Cloud, and Creative Cloud.
Make student services convenient and available 24x7 for a better college experience
Keep the university running smoothly during a pandemic
Increase efficiency and go paperless by automating administrative workflows
Give students the digital literacy skills they need to excel before and after graduation
Routed 4,000 administrative forms through Adobe Experience Manager Forms in a single month
Processed 8,000 TitanCards through Adobe Experience Manager Forms and Adobe Acrobat Sign to get freshmen started remotely
Saves 108% of employee time through form processes, shortening administrative work from weeks to hours with e-signatures and automatic routing
Reduced form errors using mandatory fields, adaptive forms, and integrations to prepopulate fields
Technology to change learning, and the world
Dr. Amir Dabirian has always been passionate about technology. He remembers learning to program and tinkering with an Apple IIe as a high school student — dreaming of what could be. Today, he is VP of IT and CIO at California State University (CSU) Fullerton and in charge of a large-scale digital transformation making a difference in the lives of students and faculty.
“I always believed technology could change the world for the better, and I’ve been working toward that vision all my life,” says Dabirian. “At CSU Fullerton, we want to promote digital transformation not just for our campus, but for the entire university system, the community, and the world.”
For the past several years, Dabirian and his team have been putting tools and technologies in place to cater to a new generation of students — digital natives for whom “technology is a sixth sense.” Meeting their rising expectations means providing student services that are convenient, accessible online, and available around the clock. It means enabling staff members to work more efficiently and going paperless across campus. And it means giving every student and faculty member the apps to broaden their digital skills and deepen their creativity.
At CSU Fullerton, there’s a strong focus on bringing technology to every student, especially those who wouldn’t otherwise have access to it. “We look to address social equity and justice — leveling the playing field for all students, no matter their background or ethnicity,” says Dabirian. “When they graduate CSU Fullerton, we want them to leave with experiences and skills that give them an edge.”
CSU Fullerton has already benefitted immensely from its digital transformation, as it has added tools that include Adobe Acrobat Sign and Adobe Acrobat DC, Adobe Experience Manager Forms, and Adobe Creative Cloud apps.
“We were looking for a solution that could deliver all of the features we needed, including electronic signatures and form processing in one seamless platform,” says Dabirian.
The Fullerton campus was the first to adopt many of these applications, sparking adoption among other universities within the CSU system. And for anyone who wasn’t already convinced by the power of technology, the COVID-19 pandemic made them believers.
“We moved 41,000 students and 5,000 faculty and staff into a virtual learning environment in a matter of days,” says Dabirian. “That would not have been possible without all the work we’ve done to go digital. Even the skeptics now see how important our technology initiatives are.”
“I always believed technology could change the world for the better, and I’ve been working toward that vision all my life.”
VP of IT and CIO, California State University Fullerton
Removing barriers to student success with a paperless campus
One goal of the digital transformation is to simplify administrative processes for students and staff. Dabirian’s IT team has gone a long way toward achieving that goal, spending the past few years rolling out Acrobat Sign, Adobe Acrobat DC, and Adobe Experience Manager Forms and creating digital workflows across campus.
“We wanted to improve graduation rates by removing barriers for students, who spent a lot of time filling out forms and running around campus collecting signatures whenever they wanted to add or drop a class or change their major,” says Joe Luzzi, Assistant Vice President of Enterprise Resource Planning at CSU Fullerton. “With Adobe Acrobat Sign and Adobe Experience Manager Forms, we simplify and streamline the whole process for students, so they can focus on their studies.”
Using the Automated Form Conversion feature in Experience Manager Forms, CSU Fullerton has converted more than 90% of paper-based form processes into digital form processes. Students can access forms at any time through the student portal, making it easier for students to add or withdraw from classes, change their major or minor, request a leave of absence, and more.
By integrating Adobe Experience Manager Forms with other systems, such as the student information system, CSU Fullerton can pre-populate forms with known student information. When a student wants to withdraw from a class, for example, the form fills in the student’s name, student ID, and provides a list of the courses that the student is enrolled in. This integration leads to fewer errors, reducing the chances that students will need to re-submit forms.
Adaptive Forms in Experience Manager Forms also helps to reduce errors by helping students submit the correct information. While CSU Fullerton once had multiple withdrawal forms—different forms for different reasons for withdrawal—now there is a single digital form for all withdrawals. Students answer a few simple questions, and the form shows them the right fields for their situation. The digital form also checks that all mandatory fields have been filled in before the form can be marked as complete, further improving accuracy.
After a form is completed online, the document is automatically routed to any signers, such as faculty or deans, before it is sent to administrative staff for review and approval. That means processes that might have taken a week or more, and multiple in-person signatures, can now be completed in a few hours, saving students and staff about 108% of administrative time per document.
In cases such as medical withdrawal, working with digital forms helps protect student privacy. Attachments, such as medical documentation, are encrypted and hidden from most viewers. Only authorized viewers, such as the medical review team, can view the information. Approved forms are stored in the records and registration systems where they can be retrieved only by authorized staff.
Digital workflows have caught on across CSU Fullerton — with nearly 4,000 documents sent through Experience Manager Forms during peak months. For example, the HR department uses them to manage documents such as COBRA notifications and employee evaluations, converting forms into a digital format using Experience Manager Forms, sending the forms to Adobe Acrobat DC for processing, and loading them into Acrobat Sign for e-signatures and approvals. The Student Health and Counseling Center has posted consent forms for medications and health consultations online, so students can access care more easily. And faculty members across departments, including the College of Communications, have started using the Adobe tools to process things like grade changes and incomplete grades.
“We’ve converted over 90% of our forms,” says Luzzi. “It’s just unbelievable the amount of forms we were able to convert and the efficiency we brought to all our processes with Experience Manager Forms and Acrobat Sign.”
The IT team estimates that the spreading process automation has reduced paper usage by 50%, as staff members increasingly move their collaboration, review, and approval processes online with Experience Manager Forms and Acrobat Sign.
“It’s just unbelievable the amount of forms we were able to convert and the efficiency we brought to all our processes with Experience Manager Forms and Acrobat Sign.”
Assistant Vice President of Enterprise Resource Planning, California State University Fullerton
New students get their TitanCards, pandemic or not
With online forms, digital workflows, and e-signatures, CSU Fullerton has kept the university running smoothly even during a pandemic. Having the right tools on hand helped the IT team solve some pressing challenges — such as how to issue TitanCards to incoming freshmen at the start of the fall semester.
TitanCards serve as student ID, debit card, library card, residence hall access key, and meal ticket, all in one. Most years, new students line up in person during orientation week to get their photos taken and receive their cards. During COVID-19, however, very few of students were on campus.
“With almost everything on campus having gone virtual, we had to speed up our plans to create and distribute TitanCards remotely,” says Rommel Hidalgo, Associate Vice President for IT and Innovation Officer. “Because the cards are the primary form of identification for everything from course registration to online testing, our approach had to be highly secure — and the Government ID authentication feature in Adobe Acrobat Sign gave us the extra level of security we needed.”
Students simply fill out a digital form to request a TitanCard and submit a selfie. The Acrobat Sign API pulls that information from the form and authenticates the photo against a government-issued ID, making sure applicants are who they claim to be. At the same time, CSU Fullerton works one-on-one with students who might not have access to a government ID and makes sure that doesn’t become an obstacle. Hidalgo’s team then prints the cards and mails them out. For students, it transforms a 15- to 20-minute wait in line to a 10-minute online process they can pursue on their own time.
“The next step is to go entirely digital and move TitanCards to the students’ smartphones,” says Hidalgo. “That’s something we’re working to finish by the end of the semester.”
A digital movement expanding from classroom to classroom
Meanwhile, the digital transformation continues to elevate the learning experience for students as an increasing number of departments integrate Adobe Creative Cloud apps into their curriculum. Not just the College of the Arts, but also communications, engineering, education, humanities and social sciences, natural sciences, mathematics, and more. Nearly 12,000 students and 1,900 faculty and staff actively use Adobe Creative Cloud apps in the classroom and beyond.
As Associate Director of Innovation on Hidalgo’s team, Matthew Badal makes sure students have all the latest tools and technologies to build their digital literacy skills — and helps them get started using them. He has a broad view of how Adobe Creative Cloud is used to sharpen students’ digital literacy skills and prepare them for the future.
“One business administration professor attended a tech day event facilitated by IT, where we demonstrated how to make custom business cards using Adobe Illustrator,” says Badal. “She took that idea and ran with it, asking students to create not only business cards in Illustrator but also a resume, website, and career roadmap using Adobe InDesign and Adobe Spark.”
In an English 101 course, students are required to remix an essay using different media — whether a painting, a digital image, or a video. Many students choose to use Adobe Premiere Pro or Adobe Premiere Rush to express their ideas visually. There are hundreds of other classes doing similar projects, and students have had an overwhelmingly positive response. Almost 65% of first-generation students believe that using Adobe Creative Cloud apps will make them more competitive in the workforce, and nearly 73% believe that the tools enriched their education experience.
The power to change the world
For Dabirian, student feedback is proof positive the digital transformation is worth the investment. With underrepresented students comprising 46% of the student body and first-generation college students comprising 54%, the technology is not just a way to become more efficient — it’s paving the road to a better world.
“At CSU Fullerton, we provide tools and training for everyone so we can level the playing field — and those students can go out into the world and make a difference,” Dabirian says. “It's a journey. It starts here, but it doesn't end here.”