Guest blog - A degree in form filling please!

by Rhodri Buttrick on 20 October 2009

In my first blog post, I discussed what a kerfuffle all the paperwork leading up to university was for me. After accepting my place, applying for halls, student loans and a disabled students' allowance, I actually thought I would be free from forms for a little bit but, alas, they just keep coming! I feel like I'm doing a degree in form filling.

I think my parents had it easy during freshers week as they just stood in queues after they arrived! To save time, however, I have everything online beforehand. Selecting modules was a particularly difficult task. A massive catalogue arrived through the letterbox with its own infinitely complicated system. You have a certain number of credits to "spend" and each course module is worth so many credits. Not an easy system for me as numbers make no sense to me and I am unable to retain them.

Finally, after deciding what I want to do and decoding the system, as instructed, I logged on to the University website to try to enter my module selection. However, what is written in the catalogue completely contradicts the instructions on the website regarding the number of modules I'm allowed to take from each department. This would be a big enough problem for non-dyslexics but I have the additional problem of doubting myself. I keep thinking, "Maybe I haven't understood the system", or "Perhaps I have misread something?"

A few emails later, and assistance from some very helpful administrators, who were able to over-ride the system for me, I was able to enter my selection. The paper and the online instructions were both correct but it was impossible to find this out without some human assistance. I really think online form filling needs more human back up, with a rapid response email or telephone help system.

Currently the main aim of these forms seems to be to collect as much data on you as possible. Most forms I come across online could work with only half the number of questions. The designers should not lose site of the fact that online forms are supposed to make things as easy as possible for the user to input data quickly.

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