New ITS form design program means quicker & cheaper research surveys
By Erin Taman
Bubbles, lines and letters are getting married - and the wedding of the three means U of S researchers can now develop, design and print surveys on campus.
The purchase by Information Technology Services Division (ITS) of computer software called 'Design Expert for Windows', or DEW, means researchers no longer have to go off-campus to get research surveys and evaluations printed, and they can now get them done much less expensively.
Sharon Schreiner, Supervisor of Computer Operations, says with DEW the computer operator takes the researcher's questions and formats them beside several small circles. The circles represent the possible answers to the questions, and the survey respondent selects an answer by shading in the corresponding circle, called a 'bubble'.
The survey sheets look similar to traditional OPSCAN sheets that professors often use to test students. The difference: instead of having questions on one sheet and the bubbles on a separate sheet, the two appear on one.
The DEW software came with a price tag of about $3,000.
Sheila Flory, Training Services Co-ordinator, was instrumental in the acquisition of the new program. She has worked with optical mark reading since the 1970s and she tested the DEW software this past winter.
Recently a U of S client approach Flory about doing a survey project. The client had received an estimate from an outside company stating it would cost $5,000 for the survey set-up and printing. With DEW, the job can now be done on-campus for $800.
Traditionally to have a survey printed with bubbles/circles included on the same page as the questions, researchers would have to go to a company outside of the province and pay hefty fees.
"This will allow researchers to capture data more efficiently and cost-effectively," says Flory.
The system has been tested since February and earlier this summer Flory and Schreiner were awaiting their first clients. Flory has generated a survey for a different project she was working on but is hoping that with the arrival of summer, researchers looking to do surveys will arrive in the office.
The process is simple. The client approaches Schreiner and her staff. They decide what type of survey is desired and draft an initial version based on questions the client provides. Changes are taken back and forth until the client is happy, says Flory. The survey is printed and the client distributes them. Once complete, the forms are returned and are fed through the optical reader, generating data based on the shaded bubbles. Generally, results can be generated within 24-hours of receiving the completed surveys, says Schreiner.
For U of S clients, the cost is 20 cents to print each double-sided page (15 cents for single sided). A design fee set-up is charged - $26 to set up a single-sided survey and $52 for a double-sided one. The only other fee is the eight cents per sheet scanning charge for reading the completed surveys.
Flory says they considered combining the scanning charge and design set-up fee, but because not all of the surveys are returned, in the end it was more cost-effective to only charge the researchers for the actual number of sheets being scanned.
As few as 20 surveys can be printed and as many as 2,000 depending on the client's wishes. Graphics and art can also be imported into the survey, but printing is currently only done in black and white.
This new program is not expected to eliminate professors' use of the standard bubble sheets for testing their students, says Schreiner, because there is no charge to process the OPSCAN sheets when they are used for class grading and evaluation. Because professors are always changing exam questions it would prove costly to continually produce exams and quizzes using the new technology. With the OPSCAN sheets, professors can change questions at their leisure.
Flory believes the new DEW system is one of the "hottest ways to get (survey) information" today.
At this point, because technicians are still new to the program, the duo says clients should expect to spend two weeks developing the survey and the data can be scanned in a 24-hour period. For information visit the website www.usask.ca/its/omr or call Schreiner directly at 966-4869.