How to Create a Fillable Form

Colleges and universities are brimming with forms. Oftentimes, these forms are not technologically advanced. In research administration, 33% of signatures are collected via hard copy, according to an SRA study. These forms, even when processed through email, are typically paper-based and filled by printing or using a third party software like Adobe’s Acrobat Pro or DocuSign. 

What if there were a better way to go about creating forms? What if the form could be branded, offer a much better user experience, and could be easily reported upon? Let’s discuss how to create a fillable form using a form builder tool. 

How can I Create a Fillable Form?

1. Select your form 

First, select the form you want to create. You may want to start with a high impact form, one that may have caused issues in the past because it is too simple in paper-based format. Here are some examples of forms you may want to target first based on different departments across campus:

Registrar’s Office

  • Request to Add/Drop a Course
  • Change of Program
  • Course Withdrawal 

Research

  • Memorandum of Understanding
  • Principal Investigator Status Request
  • Supplemental Pay for Grant-Related Work

Any Department

  • Purchase Order Request
  • Leave of Absence
  • Vacation Request

After you’ve selected the form you want to tackle, move onto creating the form. 

2. Build your form

With the right form builder tool, you can easily create any form using drag-and-drop, WYSIWIG (what-you-see-is-what-you-get) features. Using field types from simple to complex, you can add fields for long text, multiple choice, checkboxes, dropdown menus, and more. You can also structure the form with headers and pages. 

If your tool has field validation, use it to reduce clerical errors for those filling the form. You may be able to validate information such as email, phone number, or date.

3. Add Integrations

The form user doesn’t always have all the information they need readily available. Administrators may not know who needs to approve their leave of absence request. Students may not know their advisor’s name. 

Using a form builder tool, you can use data lookups to connect to data sources within your campus. Link fields to other data sources like name, advisor, student or faculty ID, and more. 

With integrations, you can take the form filling experience to the next level. By integrating your form builder tool with identity management systems, when the student or faculty member logs in their single sign-on username and password to fill out a form, integrations will allow their name, ID number, department, and other fields to automatically fill.

4. Test

Catch issues within your form and workflow before you publish it for campus-wide use. Using a simulation feature, you can see what the form will look like for everyone involved. You can also walk through the workflow as if you were an approver and preview automated notification emails. 

5. Publish

You’ve built the form and workflow and tested it to be sure. It’s time to publish! 

After you’ve published the application for use, you can easily get a link to the form and add it to your institution’s website. You can collect anonymous submissions via an embedded form. The form submitter will click on the link, the form will pop up in their browser, the user enters their information, and submits. Forms can be submitted on desktop or mobile devices with no additional app downloads or coding on the backend.

What can I Use to Create a Fillable Form?

There are many form builder tools on the market today that will enable you to create fillable forms. Application development tools will allow you to create forms and workflows to better manage and integrate processes. There are two primary categories of application development platforms: low-code and no-code platforms. 

No-Code

No-code tools enable staff, faculty, and non-technical administrators to act as “builders,” quickly creating business applications such as a change of major request, parking permit form, or a vacation request process. No-code platforms are ideal for either standalone or integrated evolving processes with shorter life-cycles of months to years. No-code empowers institutions to move faster as anyone across campus can quickly build and launch apps. No-code tools include solutions such as Google Forms and Adobe Acrobat Pro. 

Low-Code

Alternatively, low-code tools use declarative, visual modeling tools to lessen the amount of coding needed to build complex, enterprise-grade apps. Low-code platforms are made for integrated, mission-critical business processes with an extended life-cycle of over 5 years. Low-code is ideal for creating long-lasting, stable applications requiring advanced, integrated frameworks, often requiring some level of advanced technical expertise to build and maintain. Low-code tools include solutions such as OnBase and ServiceNow.

So how do you choose what you need?

Focus on the scope of your problem. How complex is the process you’re trying to solve? Does it need to be rolled out quickly? Do subject matter experts have access to technical resources to build the solution? If not, do they have the bandwidth to build one themselves?

Answering these questions will help you identify which approach to take when acquiring a tool for your department or institution.

When institution decision-makers invest in software to drive digital transformation initiatives, they expect it to improve research processes and student success. In many cases, however, the software creates more work and distracts from what matters. Powerful solutions tend to be complicated, time-consuming, and require engineers, adding to the overall expense. Simple solutions, on the other hand, often have compliance issues and lack basic security measures.

Kuali Build, a no-code forms and workflow automation software built exclusively for higher education, sits in the sweet spot between complex and simple campus systems, acting as the interconnected glue. Kuali Build enables non-technical users to act as “builders” and can also be used to create enterprise-grade applications. 

Learn more about how to choose a solution to create fillable forms on your campus with Higher Education’s Guide to Forms and Workflow Automation.