Random Tip #7: Google Forms

Google forms logo

I had originally set out to write a full review of Google Forms, but I couldn’t come up with enough to write a full review. Besides, I’m biased. I love Google Forms.

I like gathering “data” and putting it into spreadsheets. Early on in my professional career, forms were created through MS Word, and were often ugly if the person didn’t know how to use the “fields” option. It drove me crazy to see a form where there was a “write your answer here” area identified by underscores that you had to either delete before typing there or watch the line grow and grow as you typed in your response. Seriously. Even thinking about how a form with a clean layout would quickly devolve into a mess gives me chills. If you had money, you could get the editable version of Adobe Acrobat and convert the Word document into a form. This was a tedious process since you had to create textboxes for each response line, and then modify the font size to make sure the answers weren’t 14 pt font while the rest of the form was 10 pt font. I have created forms this way. I didn’t like it, and I don’t want to do it again.  I have also done some database work, where you can create a sort of online form that puts the information right into Access or database software. This approach is not really for the non-IT person.

Alas, Google Forms addresses my “form” desires:

  • Free (really free, not free to create the form but have to pay to access the responses)
  • Easy to create and complete
  • Shuttles the responses automatically into a spreadsheet
  • Looks professional (depending on the theme you choose)
  • Able to embed the form in my online classroom (also, able to email interactive form to Gmail accounts)
  • Some questions can be marked required (and users cannot submit the form until completing those questions)

Google Forms can be a bit quirky. I found it is often easier to create a new form than reuse an existing form that needs minor edits in order to be used for a different population; not creating a new form means that all the responses from the old version and the revised version go into the same spreadsheet. Another factor to consider is you’ll need a Gmail account. Since Google hasn’t taken over the world yet, I suspect there are a few people who do not have a Google account (…not many people, but a few). From your Gmail account, you can create the form through the Drive app, which also stores the form and its responses, so there’s no way getting around committing to Google in the form of a Gmail account.

Google Forms workspace

This is the workspace for Google Forms with a few sample questions to show different options. There are a variety of question types, ranging from paragraph to check-boxes.

What might you use a Google Form for? I use it primarily for student surveys that go beyond the official end-of-term surveys. But, I also create peer review forms for my creative writing course; I can see the responses and then email students the portion of the spreadsheet that applies to them. Or, I create “writer reflection” forms to allow students to explain their creative writing process for the story they wrote.

I didn’t include interactive samples, but rather graphics of what two of my forms look like. You can choose your theme for the form so you don’t have to make individual choices about font, color, and graphics; this might be a drawback for some, but I would spend way too long perfecting my design so I appreciate Google’s preset options. That said, I do try a variety of themes before committing, though I can change the theme at any time.

Google Form Samples

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