More than 7,400 high schools and colleges rely on it.
INTERVIEW | by Victor Rivero
Sitting down for a cup of coffee, Matthew Pittinsky, Ph.D., CEO of Parchment (and co-founder of Blackboard), stirs up a bit of the positive impact of technology on education discussing 9 million transcripts, his outlook on edtech, what trends he sees right around the corner, some thoughts on the recent GSV ASU conference, and the future of data. Since January 2011, Matthew has served as CEO of Parchment Inc., an education credentials company. Prior to joining Parchment, from January 2009 to December 2010, he taught and conducted research as Assistant Professor of Sociology at Arizona State University, and continues his affiliation with the University as Research Assistant Professor. He is the editor of The Wired Tower, a book analyzing the Internet’s impact on higher education, as well as a variety of scholarly research articles in the fields of sociology and education.
Victor: What’s the latest news?
Matthew: The more than 7,400 high schools and colleges that rely on our Docufide and Avow systems services are being transitioned onto an improved and advanced platform called Parchment Exchange. In building this new platform, we unify 25 percent of secondary schools and approximately 30 percent of U.S. colleges and universities in the U.S. in a way that advances the overall eTranscript exchange experience, through new efficiencies and improved functionality. We believe we have built the next generation of eTranscript exchange – one that will attract many thousands more institutions to the eTranscript exchange market, and further accelerate the adoption of eTranscripts. The bigger picture – the one that Parchment has always been about – is one of having a positive impact on student attainment.
Victor: When do all the upgrades/changes happen?
Matthew: The changes were fully rolled out at www.Exchange.Parchment.com the first week of May.
Victor: How will these changes affect Parchment, and Docufide and Avow users — e.g., will it save time, effort, money?
Matthew: The changes will positively affect virtually any individual or institution that uses Parchment, Docufide or Avow. There are both brand new features and improvements to other functionality, and features extend across the entire sending/receiving network. All users will benefit from a web site that offers a modernized user interface that balances great design and simplicity.
Our postsecondary sender members will benefit by a new ‘to-do list’ feature that makes the review and approval of transcript requests even faster and more efficient, simplified process to send to registered receivers via a drop down list, and ability to outsource printing/mailing to Parchment.
A primary benefit to transcript receivers is a unified inbox, which enables member institutions to aggregate the receipt of transcripts from our 7,400+ members along with institutions sending standards-based transcript data over the Texas SPEEDE Server, and those that originate with the eTranscript California network – with more networks being added as we go along.
Victor: What features of Parchment Exchange already exist and were upgraded and which are new features?
Matthew: Features that existed but which are being upgraded or extended across our college members include:
- Touch-free, complete automation, including ordering, receiving, sending and printing
- Transcript delivery in print, image or standards-based EDI or XML data formats
- Straightforward, proven implementation with any Student Information System (SIS) or Electronic Admissions Application (eApp)
- The highest level of security for both PDF and printed documents
- Integration of Parchment’s registered receiver network of 1,500+ colleges and universities across its sender network
- For colleges, fully branded Web order environment and transcripts
- Tracking and reporting metrics enabling deep analytic insight
Brand new features include:
- A “unified inbox” that can receive eTranscripts from multiple providers, including the SPEEDE Server at the University of Texas at Austin and eTranscript California
- An easy-to-use, intuitive, redesigned interface that members use to manage their transcripts at exchange.parchment.com
Victor: What do you think is the most significant new feature? How will it benefit Parchment Exchange users — both individuals and institutions?
Matthew: With numerous new and enhanced features, perhaps the most significant of Parchment Exchange is that it is a true and full exchange of senders and receivers – a community of practice that covers a broad range of educational institutions and other transcript receivers. It’s a holistic approach to transcript exchange that no one else has been able to build.
Victor: I understand you enlisted your advisory board to help create the service enhancements and new features. What did that process look like?
Matthew: We knew from the outset it would be critical to involved Parchment Advisory Board members – in this case, individuals representing a cross-section of high schools and postsecondary institutions from across the country. We spent a lot of time with this group, eliciting input via several different mechanisms and bringing as many of the board together for final review and feedback. They provided input on product development, beta tested the upgraded platform and provided feedback on how and when to roll out changes. The whole idea was to tap into this highly valued community, many of whom have been with Parchment from the beginning, for their wisdom and knowledge – and for reality checks.
Victor: Can you give me a brief history of Docufide, Parchment and Avow Systems and how they became one service? What will happen to the Docufide and Avow brands?
Matthew: Parchment was founded in 2003 as Docufide, which established itself as a trusted intermediary, and introduced the first commercial eTranscript solution. Docufide initially focused on the secure exchange of transcripts from high schools to colleges, developing a full-service solution that delivered transcripts electronically or on paper to any destination, while bringing colleges online to receive eTranscripts.
Avow Systems launched in 2006, focusing on the sending component for colleges. Avow created a now-patented secure document technology, which provides a certified PDF of college transcripts. Parchment acquired Avow in 2012, and merged the Avow Solutions platform with what was the Docufide platform, bringing together a credentialing platform that includes an exchange network of more than 1,600 colleges, full-service transcript processing, and patented certified PDF technology. Parchment’s members span all market sectors including K-12, state education agencies, two- and four-year colleges, proprietary schools, scholarship funds and non-academic entities including associations and employers.
Today, Parchment has transformed itself into a postsecondary education company while continuing to grow its commanding secondary education market share. We’re proud that Parchment is only one of two companies to be awarded the PESC seal of approval for the verified implementation of approved PESC data standards.
Victor: How many transcripts has Parchment handled to date, and between how many member institutions?
Matthew: Parchment’s 7,400 active member institutions and 8 statewide initiatives have exchanged more than 9 million transcripts, nearly 98 percent of our secondary which are now sent electronically.
Victor: What’s your outlook on education technology in the next several years?
Matthew: It’s a very exciting time in edtech, with new platforms and interfaces like Pearson’s MX Touch, and advances in data. But we have to temper that excitement about all the innovations we’re seeing in education with the reality that most educational institutions move slowly. I’m not a big believer that the pace will dramatically accelerate the way it has in other sectors – and in a sense I’m glad for that. Students only get to fifth grade or ninth grade once for instance, and so we have a responsibility to make sure that as we work to transform curricula or introduce new practices around personalized learning that we understand the impact of seeking scale.
Victor: Any other emerging technologies that you see that will be transformative?
Matthew: One trend with the biggest impact is and will be data. Data on the curricula side is adaptive, and I think there will be personalized products that will reach to the enterprise side. There’s a big trend, of course, in enabling transcripts to move as data from high school to colleges, but also the potential to take transcript data that colleges collect to place students in courses, determine how well prepared students are, and match learners with employers based on the skills and knowledge they have developed. We’ve already seen many ways in how changing from printed to electronic transcripts creates practical impact.
Victor: What sort of things did you learn at the recent ASU/GSV Education Innovation Summit? Lessons learned? Did you make any decisions as a result of your attendance and interactions there?
Matthew: When I first started attending the summit, and others like it, it felt like we and other ed tech companies were the red-headed stepchildren of the tech industry, and it was very hard to get the attention of investors. Now it’s kind of strange to go to the summit and see the scale and level of energy that exists there. It reminds me of the old VC adage that there’s a big difference between a feature, a product and a company. There are now a lot of very motivated entrepreneurs who’ve got some great features to solve problems in education. Whether those features and products can scale into companies – which they have to do in order to weather the education market – is still at issue. At the end of the day we need to both support teachers and sell products and services.
As always, there were a lot of good business development and partnership discussions at the summit. There’s a ton of value of having one event, and it’s wonderful and exciting to see so much innovation around the ed tech sector. And I have to say I love that once a year the entire ed tech industry comes to Arizona, where we’re located.
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