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Forms as (Pedagogical) Features

Rethink the forms that students and others fill out so that they are features that enhance education rather than "mere bureaucracy."

Photo of Dan Ryan
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The filling out of forms is almost universally experienced as a burdensome annoyance, an obstacle to getting things done, proof that institutions just want to turn humans into numbers.  Forms are, more often than not, poorly designed, hard to understand, and symbolic of red tape and frustration.

But might we reconceptualize forms and the roles they play in our experience of educational institutions.

We fill them out to initiate organizational processes, to get exceptions to rules, to explain why things happened.

we could, for examples le, connect a declaration of major form with a life decision, joining a community of fellow students and a community of mind in all the people who've studied that major.  A drop add form can celebrate self determination in education. Each form connects with a way in whoch exucatiob IS. In fact not mere mass production, not treating people like numbers. 

Who is your idea designed for and how does it reimagine higher education to support the needs of tomorrow?

Students and the staff who serve ghem

This idea emerged from:

  • A group brainstorm

What skills, input or guidance from the OpenIDEO community would be most helpful in building out or refining your idea?

Let's get some experience design folks involved.

What early, lightweight experiment might you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

Revise forms at a few schools and do some focus groups.

Tell us about your work experience:

I teach design, innovation, etc. at USC Iovine Young Academy.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Dan Ryan

Hi Pete Kale and Natalie LeRoy ,
Thanks for that feedback. Just back in LA and haven't had a chance to look things over - I think some examples will clarify - I have a few and my students created a few last semester. Will post in a bit.

Photo of Kate Rushton

This is an interesting idea, Dan. I think we can all attest to the pain of filling in forms and the data collected from form filling is very useful for matching people to other people, programs, projects, and organizations.

I must admit that I sometimes struggle sometimes with the use of language in forms. Often there are words that I hardly ever use.

This FAFSA form here -

Photo of Natalie LeRoy

Thanks Dan. I have seen a similar idea with legal papers: an app that lets you know what the terms and conditions are in short, succinct paragraphs. I would be very interested in helping you model this with a system as well as a mockup of how it would look. You can see some of my work on openIDEO if that helps you get an idea. Please contact me on here, or a telephone call would be great too. Thanks! Natalie

Photo of Billy Korompilias

Dear Mr. Ryan,

by reading on your statement something I came along recently came to my mind and I wanted to share.

If I am right you are discussing about Personalization, and the concept of forms take the etymology of Semantics in Information Technology. They saw the importance of categorizing Semantic Knowledge in data driven systems already and they have developed astonishing ways to record and process them. Artificial Intelligence steps forward in this field with systems actually understanding the data people add to these "forms" you call. Though what the following company does is beyond words, it is about emotions...

Emotions Recognition System

I hope I am in the right direction towards what you propose, if not, please forgive me. The functionality that you express in our teams' idea, helps with the core framework and it is crucial for it to operate. At Intelligence Circles - Investigating Capsules (IC) we use forms in order to collect data for problem solving, community building, career development, experiencing inclusiveness, education and development. We acknowledge that more evolved Technics for this functionality would do miracles in the advancement of our society, especially through the Artificial Intelligence sector!

Kindly Regards,

Photo of Pete Kale

Yours is a fascinating idea with many possibilities. My experience with forms is that most are extremely painful to fill out, and often don't even make sense. What you've suggested beyond making them make sense is designing them to serve a variety of important functions. It feels a little to me like the experiences I've had using to do genealogy. The forms there are mostly for search, but others document what you've learned, and what you still don't know. That's only one example, but it does illustrate effective use of forms designed for a purpose. Could you imagine an exam as an interactive form that could then be used as a guide to direct further study? Many more possibilities, and as Natalie suggests, creating a few examples could be especially helpful in advancing the concept.

Photo of OpenIDEO

Hi Dan,

Great to have you onboard! We noticed your post is currently unpublished. Was this your intention? We'd love to have it be included in the challenge. You can publish it by hitting the "Publish" button at the top of your post. You can also update your post by clicking on the "Edit Contribution" on top. We're looking forward to seeing your contribution in this challenge.

Any chance you could find an image to go along with it? Images help grab attention and tell a story. You should be able to use the Edit Contribution button on the top of your post and follow the instructions to add images from there. Looking forward to seeing more of your inspiring insights on OpenIDEO.