One key challenge—among many others—that higher education institutions must tackle in the policy management lifecycle is publication. Unlike most other corporations, universities and colleges are obligated to communicate policies to various groups on and off campus, whether it be to satisfy compliance requirements or simply to demonstrate transparency. Logistically, broadly communicating policies and procedures is not an easy task, though, at least not without first centralizing policy management.
The Need for Effective Policy Communication
For colleges and universities, adequately communicating policies and procedures accomplishes two goals.
First, within your institution, there is a need to ensure that policies are convenient and accessible for students, faculty, and staff. Outside of your institution, there are several groups of individuals who also have a vested interest in knowing rules and regulations; these include prospective students, their families, and donors. Rather than maintaining two separate policy libraries for internal and external access, it makes the most sense from a transparency standpoint to manage one that can be readily accessible by anyone.
Second, higher ed institutions must meet certain legal requirements regarding their policies and procedures. In order to remain in compliance with the Higher Education Act of 1965, institutions are required to make certain information available to the general public. This includes rules and regulations surrounding:
- Accreditation, approval, and licensure of an institution
- Copyright infringement policies and sanctions in compliance with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 (DMCA)
- Instructional facilities and demographics
- Services for students with academic disabilities
- The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA)
- Academic programs, athletic programs, cost of attendance, student diversity, and financial assistance
- The student handbook
- Transfer credit policies
- Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it gives you an idea of just how important it is that your institution has thoroughly communicated policies and procedures to the public. Neglecting to share certain information in a timely manner could cause lingering issues down the road.
Creating a Public Policy Website
The solution many colleges and universities have for communicating policies and procedures to as many groups as possible and satisfy compliance needs is to create and manage a public policy website. This adds an extra layer of complexity to an already complicated policy creation process for many higher education institutions. Not only are compliance offices and policy committees under pressure to keep a multitude of policies consistently up to date (a process already bogged down with long email threads and a lack of version management), you have to then have these updates published online.
Unless you have a system in place to automatically publish policies, many institutions rely on their IT departments to publish policy updates, requiring them to create a new web page every time a new policy is added. While it is convenient to have the department most familiar with the web manage the policy website for you, it’s not the most efficient. For one thing, IT departments have a lot on their plates—they’re responsible for maintaining critical enterprise infrastructure and software across a university’s service area. If they aren’t troubleshooting email services, they’re updating security protocols or responding to a potential data breach. In short, they’re a little busy, and that means publishing a policy update is not very high on their list of priorities.
No matter how smoothly policy creation, review, and approval go, when you have to rely on a separate department to publish policies, it leads to a bottleneck as policies awaiting publication pile up. This becomes especially problematic when you’re dealing with time-sensitive matters. When COVID-19 caused universities to abruptly take classes online, institutions scrambled to draft new policies and procedures surrounding the myriad of new issues this created. At the same time, their IT departments were contending with a barrage of extra work as they transitioned the campus to an online-first environment. It’s easy to see how making policy updates could be moved to the backburner.
Build a Bridge Between Policy Approval and Publication
A unique feature of ComplianceBridge’s policy management software is the ability to publish policies to a public portal that will be accessible to anyone. Here’s how it works.
First, a policy must pass review and approval. This can be easily managed in our system without the need to navigate the confusing back-and-forth of email. When you handle this step in ComplianceBridge, it records a timeline of all reviews, collaboration efforts, and approvals, and allows you to create and save workflows so you can reuse them in the future. When all activity is tracked on our platform, it makes it easy to reference it later for auditing purposes to prove policies went through the proper channels before publication, all without the need to manually fill out a spreadsheet.
Once approved, it’s easy to publish a new policy to your public web portal on ComplianceBridge—it’s as simple as clicking a button. Not only does this save the time it would normally take you to send it over to IT and have them create a new web page for you, but ComplianceBridge also enables you to customize your public portal so that it looks and feels just like your regular website. Visitors won’t even know when they’ve left the university site and entered the public policy portal.
The best part is that if you make an update to any policies you have stored in your internal policy library on ComplianceBridge, the policy on your public portal will also automatically update. This completely streamlines the publication process for universities and colleges who want to ensure they’re only sharing the most current information.
ComplianceBridge offers an array of other features that make it uniquely suited for higher education institutions in other ways, as well. These include collaborative policy writing and editing, version stacking, automatic review notifications, and a Microsoft 365 integration, just to name a few. So, if you’re in search of a policy management system that can actually manage the complexities of communicating policies and procedures on campus and beyond, look no further. Equipped with a wealth of experience in the higher ed sector, we understand exactly the challenges your policy management process faces. Request a demo with ComplianceBridge today to learn how our platform can help you iron out the kinks in your process.