Saving time, standardizing electronic transcripts

Illustration contains a transparency blends/gradients. Additional .ai10 file included. EPS 10

As part of a substantial upgrade to the Ontario Universities’ Application Centre (OUAC) transcript exchange, U of T introduced consistent, easy-to-read PDF transcripts, allowing admissions staff to view relevant information in one location. It’s a project that has dramatically improved workflows for processing over 20,000 incoming electronic post-secondary transcripts each year.

“We worked with the University Registrar’s Office (URO) to convert incoming post-secondary XML transcripts into PDF format,” says Matt Hendrickson, technical lead with Enterprise Applications & Solutions Integration (EASI). “If admissions staff receive a transcript from any university or college in Canada, they’ll see a PDF with information presented in a standard format.”

The upgrade has had many benefits, leading to streamlined processes for staff.

“In the past, admissions staff consulted a number of different systems to access transcript information, which was sometimes difficult to read and often added more time to the assessment process,” says Sinisa Markovic, deputy university registrar and director of operations with the URO. “Now, we are able to consolidate all the information in Slate, in a user-friendly format, making the process more efficient and less error prone.”

The EASI team used foundational work done by the URO, as part of the Canadian Postsecondary Electronic Standards Council (CanPESC) Common Digital Working Group, as a starting point for the standard PDF transcript format.

“The framework, called the Common Digital Layout (CDL), represents a minimally agreed-upon layout determined by the working group, and it’s something that can then be adapted to meet each institutions’ specific needs,” says the project lead, Joseph Minichini, assistant university registrar, policy and projects with the URO. “The EASI team took our foundational work and referenced it for U of T’s purposes. Using the CDL design, staff are now able to see XML transcripts, coming from a variety of institutions, in the same consistent and familiar format, making it easier for them to work with.”

U of T joined the CanPESC working group, led by OUAC, in June 2019 as the pilot institution. The CanPESC promotes adoption of data standards across Canada.

The PDF transcript project builds on U of T’s previous upgrade to OUAC’s transcript exchange to align with new data standards. The update to a modern data format involved an entire rewrite of the data model and application.

“For over two years, my colleague June Cheng worked with EASI staff and the URO to help U of T modernize its electronic transcript exchange,” says Hendrickson. “This update improved data quality and processing efficiency, and it also set the scene for PDF transcripts.”

In June 2022, U of T presented on the XML to PDF transcript solution at a conference hosted by the Association of Registrars of the Universities and Colleges of Canada and the Pan-Canadian Consortium on Admissions & Transfer.

The working group has published resources that other institutions can use to implement their own CDL transcript, and the group will publish an implementation guide in the near future.

“It’s been a very successful project that has improved the admissions process,” says Hendrickson. “It’s been great working with people at EASI as well as the URO and OUAC to ensure we met the different stakeholders’ needs.”