The Future of Digital
Student Data Portability

Best Practices Guide for PDF Transcript Exchange

AACRAO's Standardization of Postsecondary Education Electronic Data Exchange (SPEEDE) Committee was recently tasked to develop best practices and guidelines for processing electronic portable document format (PDF) transcripts. This has led to a <a href="">Best Practices guide for PDF transcript exchange</a>. The guide is the outcome of a 19-question survey that was developed by the AACRAO SPEEDE Committee in spring 2013, to learn how institutions process both inbound and outbound PDF transcripts.

<strong>General survey findings</strong>
The survey showed that 51% of survey respondents are sending PDF transcripts; 85% are receiving; and 39% are doing both. Of those currently sending PDF transcripts, 82% use a third-party provider.

<strong>Best Practices shortlist</strong>
1 - <em>Understand and select the appropriate security for PDF transcripts</em>;
2 -<em> Understand and select the appropriate rights management of the document</em>;
3 - <em>Understand the various costs associated with transcript orders, and determine the appropriate time to collect the transcript fee</em>;
4 - <em>Accept secure PDF transcripts as “official” transcripts</em>;
5 - <em>If using an imaging system to capture PDF transcripts, use automated indexing for improved efficiency</em>;
6 - <em>Be familiar with processes for retention and data-mining of transcript data</em>.

<strong>Conclusion, as stated by the AACRAO SPEEDE Committee</strong>
The SPEEDE Committee anticipates that these best practices and survey responses will provide some guidance to professionals in the Education Industry. As we all strive to find more efficient ways to serve our students we can learn from each other’s experiences and those of industry leaders. We appreciate the input and insight from survey respondents and are grateful for the opportunity to speak to Tom Black, Associate Vice Provost for Student Affairs and University Registrar at Stanford University, about his thoughts on the PDF transcript. Tom advocates for the secure exchange of electronic student information through his participation in AACRAO events and was recently featured in the AACRAO <em>Connect </em>Spotlight <a href="">Roundup for the Groningen Declaration</a>. Tom shared these words of wisdom that eloquently sum up the benefits of PDF usage:

<em>Standards have their place: to ensure interoperability and service quality. It is a rare occurrence for a standard to spur innovation. The 2011 standard for PDF transcripts is one of those that will encourage changes in the way colleges and universities go about sending the official records. The intuitive nature of the standard makes it acceptable to officials in other nations as well. For a time, the PDF standard will serve us well as we adapt our services for the 21st century.</em>