Duke University Makes Forms from Scratch

Article excerpt

One activity both teachers and students take very seriously at the Duke University School of Law is the semester-end teacher evaluations. For the past three years the results of the student-completed questionnaires have been published and made available to the student body. Teacher and class reputations, as well as prospective student enrollment, fall in the balance.

Previously the results of these teacher evaluation forms were hand-tabulated. With an average of 35 to 40 class sections per semester-approximately 1,250 students-the possibility for error was quite high. With this in mind, the Management Information Services department decided to try using scannable forms and an OMR scanner instead.

Joey Howell, the department's project manager, describes how a student assistant, V.R. Raju, suggested an OMR scanner for computing evaluation-form results. Howell says the doctoral candidate in electrical engineering approached the department after looking at available scanners. He had had negative experiences with one vendor's product and, after further scrutiny, suggested the HEI/360 Page Scanner by Scanning Systems, a division of HEI, Inc. in Victoria, Minn.

* Software Driver

The law school's MIS department had an IBM XT computer with a 10MB hard drive, color monitor and printer. The software sold by HEI to accompany the scanner, TopScore, drives the scanner plus formats it to read different types of forms. The software tells the scanner where to look for valid responses on forms.

"Topscore tells the scanner to look for [filled-in] bubbles in [a certain number of] the 48 possible bubble positions," explains Howell, "then assigns a value to each position, either alphabetic or numeric. Next it reads the form, collects the data [the values] and puts that information in a file."

Then the operator goes back through on a form-by-form basis to correct any scanning errors such as incomplete erasures or spots that were filled in with ink rather than lead and show up blank on the computer. Topscore generates a computer image of the problem form for comparison with the original.

Lastly, the program exports data in ASCII file format to be used in a reporting program Howell created in dbase. Although Topscore has reporting capabilities, the project manager needed output that was camera-ready for use in the published report.

* Important Discovery

The most important and money-saving discovery, however, was the realization that Duke University could print their own scannable forms on their laser printer. Preprinted scannable forms are expensive, and many OMR scanners will only accept the forms sold by their manufacturers. The HEI/360 did not, though, and this left the MIS department and Raju in the position of creating their own forms. …