Showcase and discover digital art at yex

Follow Design Stacks

Subscribe to our free newsletter to get all our latest tutorials and articles delivered directly to your inbox!

Getting your school started with PDF forms

Getting your school started with PDF forms
Adobe PDF
Adobe® Acrobat® 7.0 Professional software provides multiple tools for building powerful forms for your school district. When making the transition from traditional paper forms to a PDF forms process, administrators, teachers, IT staff, and key support staff need to be on board from the start of the project. There are many compelling, sensible reasons to adopt the PDF framework for your school forms.

PDF forms in schools

Forms are an everyday staple in the exchange of data in business, at home, and over the web. Schools are no exception. From internal forms used in the personnel and business offices, to forms that are distributed to students and parents, the list grows monthly. When it comes to creating, distributing, and managing forms for a large variety of purposes, today’s school districts are looking for ways to manage this process in a more efficient manner.

PDF forms are a good choice for some good reasons. One reason is that they retain their natural look and feel when printed. This makes it easy to manage and distribute them in a traditional sense. But an equally important reason is the ability to take the form and its content and integrate it easily for other purposes. Schools that use PDF forms can easily re-use their content with out-of-the-box solutions as well as advanced solutions that make use of network infrastructure and services.

As you continue to expand your school’s mix of computers, software, and network services, the initial planning and efforts made in your forms project will go a long way in tapping the power that the Adobe PDF form provides. As your school transitions to the PDF approach to utilizing forms, this careful planning will help ensure a smoother process.

Some powerful features of PDF forms

  • PDF forms can be printed or posted — They can be printed on demand from a central location, creating a minimum of waste in time and resources.
  • PDF forms can be made so that they can be filled in directly on the user’s computer and then printed as needed.
  • PDF forms can be wired to a database or compiled into a spreadsheet when needed — all within the Acrobat 7.0 Professional application.
  • PDF form data can be collected and aggregated — In the submission process, the user’s data, or the entire PDF with all of its data, can be submitted in a number of ways.
  • PDF forms can be digitally signed and certified — This enables the history of the form’s content to be verified and tracked as necessary.
  • PDF forms can be archived, indexed, and secured within Acrobat Professional, making their management and integration with other PDF documents extremely easy. All users of Acrobat, including those using the free Adobe Reader®, can use these indexes.

Key steps for implementing PDF forms

The first step when implementing any digital workflow is to understand your current workflow, including its strengths and weaknesses. An effective PDF forms workflow should seek to mirror the existing one while maximizing the use of your school’s technology and software resources. Don’t forget to speak with your fellow staff members about how they use forms. Your community of users will be much more receptive to this migration if you include them in the process analysis. They can provide you with valuable feedback.

The PDF team selection process:

It is a good idea to bring together a select group of team members. The team should consist of key document creators, users, administrators, IT, and clerical staff. Be sure to include those who will create, process, approve, review, or route the forms. They are the ones who will help make your PDF forms project a successful one.

Find a few forms that are “high value.” These forms are the ones everyone uses, and needs, like requests for leave or days off, announcements, class forms, timesheets, petty cash, and evaluation forms. Any form you use often is a good choice.

Start with one or two forms. Once you get the process down, you can quickly bring other forms into your PDF form collection.

Look at other forms. Try a Google search containing the word “form” of type “*.pdf” in the search field. You will be surprised how many are out there. You may find some that you can use as a model.

Look at the Adobe Designer templates available in the Windows version of Acrobat 7.0 Professional. These are easy to customize and can save a lot of time.

Define the information you need to collect and choose your form field types carefully.

Make sure that the PDF form has the right look and “feel.” Spend time adjusting its appearance and layout so that it has the right amount of space for supplying information.

The implementation process:

Make sure that your school computers have the necessary Acrobat software installed and configured.

Train key staff in the proper creation and processing of the form data. Take that high-value form and put it through its paces with your key workgroup members. Note any feedback as to how the form is downloaded, filled, and distributed. Be sure to adjust as needed.

Place these forms in a central location on your network if possible. It is important that all forms are accessed from the same source. One of the keys to an efficient digital workflow is that there is only one version of a particular form. If a form’s structure is updated, the old form should be removed in the form repository so that there are no old versions that can be mistakenly used.

Access, submit, and collect the form data. Acrobat 7.0 Professional’s “Create Spreadsheet from Data Files” feature is a new way to easily compile many submitted forms into a simple spreadsheet so that you can organize your data. Inspect it to see if it is reporting the proper information.

Invite others to work with your test forms, expanding your test workgroup. Note and make any changes necessary to assure that your PDF form process is a natural one.

As your forms become refined, start to reduce the number of paper copies of your new PDF forms around the school. Point users and community members to a location where they can find these forms. They may be located internally on your network or on your school website for easier access.

Most importantly, listen to your users! Remember the time and effort you spend in the beginning of your planning process will more than pay off as you pursue a digital PDF forms workflow.

The Result:

As your staff and educational community begin to realize the quick delivery, accuracy, and efficiency of using PDF forms, you are on the way to quantifiable savings in time, money, and resources. You are making the use of technology in your district more ubiquitous. Your community will realize a significant return on its technology investment. The stakeholders in your school community will see an improvement in communications and will appreciate your efforts toward a more digitally enabled educational environment.

Note: This article is furnished for informational use only, is subject to change without notice, and should not be construed as a commitment by Adobe Systems Incorporated. Adobe Systems Incorporated assumes no responsibility or liability for any errors or inaccuracies that may appear in this material.