Tag Archives: Acrobat Pro

Teaching revisions

Well, my utter absence over the last few months derives from my own coursework and my attempt to teach a Library Studies course for the first time.  As a short term, 8-week, online course, the pressure was, well, intense.  However, without my own school stuff going on, I’m trying to test out new ways to possibly make my life easier and thought I would share my research findings.

1) Weekly homework assignments are part of the learning process of the course, forcing students to download, enter in their answers, save, and upload their responses back to the course Assignment Drop-Box (I’m using WebCT).  The number of problems this routine activity causes students is astounding.  To avoid the proprietary file format issue, the standard set forth is RTF (rich text format) so students can use it in Google Docs, Microsoft whatever version, WordPerfect, etc.  However, at least 10-20% of the time students fail to either a) include their names or b) save the file they edited in the correct format.  Other issues tend to arise from uploading a file.    In order for me to markup their assignments, I have downloaded each RTF file, converted it to PDF, marked up the PDF, and reuploaded it as a Graded Assignment for the student to review.  To say the least, getting through a batch of 30 kids can take 8-10 hours.  Therefore, I thought I might be able to trim the time down (at least on the uploading, converting end) and try to reduce the number of issues students encounter by changing the RTF document into a form of some sort.  The library is also keen on understanding the student learning outcomes (SLOs) from this course to help either a) advocate for more sections since this is a graduation requirement but we only currently offer 3 sections of it or b) propose more funding to develop the library’s resources and programs.

Option 1: Create PDF Interactive Forms for students to fill out

With government agencies like the IRS having made the transition to interactive forms available online (instead of waiting for paper ones to arrive), I figured it was worth a shot.  Previous experience with Adobe Acrobat Pro 9.0 (yes, only this version is form-creator friendly) helped me feel comfortable jumping in.  The forms seem like a good idea since students wouldn’t struggle with changing text font into a different color than black and then I could download all answers in a spreadsheet at the end of the semester to evaluate question effectiveness.  The only real trick to making this successful is remembering that after running the Form Wizard and creating all of your fields to go to Advanced>Extend Features in Adobe Reader so students completing the form can save copies of the form with their answers.  (Granted I only discovered this trick with drafting up this post).  I still need to see how things work with exporting the data, but I know that all goes to a CSV (comma-separated value) file that opens nicely in Excel and Excel like programs.

Example of an Interactive Form made with Adobe Acrobat Pro 9.0
Example of an Interactive Form made with Adobe Acrobat Pro 9.0

Option 2: Google Forms

I use Google Spreadsheets to track grading progress, I use Google Powerpoint to create my Powerpoint-like presentations, so why not test out a Google Form? Unlike Adobe’s forms, Google Forms are unbelievably user-friendly, as you can see from the image of how to create a Multiple-Choice quesiton below.

Google Form example - How to Make a Multiple-Choice Question
Google Form example - How to Make a Multiple-Choice Question

Another great thing with Google Forms is its ease of distribution.  You email the form itself to be completed in the email or give a URL for the form or even embed the Form into your own site.

Example of a Google Form embedded in a website, particularly a course page
Example of a Google Form embedded in a website, particularly a course page

Although, I think my favorite part of Google Forms is the pretty summary graphs and charts it gives you about each response, as you can see in the gallery of images below.  You can also view the responses in a spreadsheet if you’d like but its less fun that way.

However, for my purposes, there are some drawbacks with Google Forms such as I can’t markup assignments and send them back to students to see what they got wrong and students don’t learn how to save a file, edit the file’s name, download a file, or upload one.  While those aren’t technically part of my curriculum, these life skills are important for students moving into professional settings or moving on to other online or hybrid-type classes that most universities offer nowadays.  Therefore, Google Forms will simply be just that, a simple form tool to get feedback for my own use and not to use as a feedback tool between me, others, and back to others.

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Accessible forms, oh brother!

As part of my summertime project, I worked on converting Word forms to ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) accessible forms in both Word and PDF.  While the concept seemed easy enough in the beginning, the differences between converting general documents to an accessible format versus converting interactive forms proved to be quite large.  Given the section 503 requirements for making web pages and documents accessible (and logical) to screen readers, born-digital document producers have not addressed the issue of forms.  But, as I found out, only the vendors of the popular screen reader, JAWS, and Adobe Acrobat Pro 9 (sorry, version 8 just doesn’t have quite the capability, although it tries really hard), have any information about making forms accessible.  Therefore, to save us all a lot of headache, I thought I would share my resources with you all for when you are creating course materials for that information literacy course or creating general documents for the library to share.

At the same time, I might as well share a few of my thoughts on the experience and the potentially awesome value of interactive forms in general.  As a student in an online program, having TA’ed for an online course, and soon to be a professor for my own whole course, fillable forms can solve a lot of the headache surrounding correct/incorrect file formats for assignments (you’d be surprised how many grad students can’t follow directions).  At the same time, forms allow the downloading and exporting of assignments or form responses into an Excel file.  Ever wanted to be able to analyze which questions students struggled with the most?  Now, you should be able to get that all into one file without retyping or sorting through piles of paper.  Survey responses would work the same way.

Accessible Forms in Word
http://www.freedomscientific.com/Training/accessible-forms-in-word.htm

Accessible Forms in Excel
http://www.freedomscientific.com/Training/accessible-forms-in-excel.asp

Accessible Forms in PDF
http://www.adobe.com/accessibility/best_practices.html –>To be honest, the important notes for general forms can be summed up as:

1) Go to ‘File-> Properties->advanced->Reading Options->Language->English. Save (This is a must)
2) Expand the side bar and click on ‘Pages’ (usually when you expand it is already selected) It will show you thumbnails of pages. Select all thumbnails. Right Click –>Page properties–>Tab Order–>Use Document structure (For selecting all thumbnails click on one and press ctrl+A). Save
3) Go to Menu Bar on top ‘Advanced->Accessibility->Full Check’ See what errors it give.
4) Also to ensure all the paragraphs are marked in correct order go to ‘Advanced->accessibiltiy->Touch up reading order’. A new box will open named touch up reading order. In that select ‘show order panel’ from below.(Now there are two boxes) You will see all the paragraphs will be marked 1,2… etc; on the page. Check if that is in correct order. Sometimes the topmost para is marked 2nd and the reader reads it later which is not correct. If you want to change the order in the ‘order panel’ select the page you are working on it will have summary. You can drag the content to up or down to change the order. Example if your heading is in 2nd place drag it above content marked 1 actually for 1st place drag the content at 1st place down(this is a bit tricky sometimes).
5) Also using touch up order you can select any para/figure/table(just click on the numeral assigned to the content) and then in the in the touch up reading order select the appropriate Tag. You can also click on the numeral and then right click.
6) Save your document and again go for ‘Full check’. If it does not give error. Go for Reader and listen everything is read properly and in order otherwise follow above step to change order. Always Save