Are paper bubble forms still relevant for survey and course or instructor evaluation data collection?
I get asked this question all the time: Hasn’t all data collection gone electronic and aren’t paper forms done?
If you had asked me this question 15 years ago, I would have said that 15 years later, yes, all data collection using paper forms would be over. But, fast forward 15 years and paper forms still have a place in our electronic world. And that place comes largely from human behavior and our ability to put things off that we don’t absolutely have to do. I think a couple of anecdotes are in order here.
We have a customer who gives CME conferences in the medical world and they tried to go electronic. The workshop/instructor evaluations were the life blood of the organization – they needed that data to know what the medical profession wanted to learn. There are literally tens of thousands of CME courses all over the world to choose from and medical professionals (doctors, nurse practitioners, physician’s assistants, nurses, etc.) get to choose where they obtain their required CME credit. The only way CME organizations that put on these conferences can compete is to know what the medical professionals want to learn and interests they have.
So, this customer was flabbergasted when they went electronic for their workshop evaluations and their return rate dropped from about 95% to below 10%. They had placed computers with the workshop evaluations just outside the conference rooms and with every person carrying an electronic device of some sort, they assumed their return rate would drop a little due to procrastination but that huge drop could not have been predicted.
What was the problem? If you hand people a paper survey form along with other workshop materials and save a couple of minutes at the end of the session to fill them out, 95% to 100% of people will fill it out and hand it to the person standing at the door. If you ask people to fill out an online evaluation, they will simply not get it done – procrastination, too busy, don’t have anything to say, etc. – whatever the reasons, the results suffer greatly.
A manufacturing plant had been using Safety Card type bubble forms for years. These forms were light card stock and could fit in a shirt pocket. The purpose of these cards is to give employees walking around the plant that saw safety violations or had safety concerns a way to inform the plant supervisors about the situation. These cards were designed to show good and bad situations. There was no punishment involved, just corrective action taken to improve plant safety. When good things were reported, there were rewards involved for doing things the right way. Another good thing about the cards was that the scanning of the cards took place in an office environment away from the grit and grime of the plant so the scanning machines continued to operate correctly. The plant was getting good results from the cards and plant safety was improving.
So, then, management decided to go electronic thinking that this was the most efficient way to collect this data. Their return rate again dropped off markedly.
Why did this happen? It turns out that a lot of plant workers are not necessarily very familiar with computers, keyboards and pointing devices. A paper form is something that people have been dealing with all their lives. Also, keeping the machines operating correctly in a plant environment was a costly and time-consuming task for the IT department. Plants are simply not a good place to have any kind of electronic equipment. You can buy hardened equipment that costs 3 times as much but that just adds to the expense.
These are just 2 stories and there are ways to fix some of the problems that go with these stories but the point is: in these situations, paper forms were doing a better job.
How can DATA BLOCKS help me with my data collection needs using bubble forms?
The Concord Suite and Magenta Suite are complete software packages that allow you to do forms design, forms scanning and getting results from your survey forms, instructor evaluations, workshop evaluations, course evaluations and test assessments. Both packages offer lower cost and time saving features to get your project started and completely quickly. Some of the processes can be automated for even simpler procedures.
Yes, you may design and print your own scantron sheets in-house for EITHER a page scanner or OMR scanner/reader!
Take a look at our Concord Suite that works with page/desktop/image/MFP scanners to give a full scanning package with no other software needed.
Or, take a look at how the Magenta Suite works with OMR scanners/readers to give a full OMR scanning package with no other software needed.