Survey Systems Blog

Paper Survey Forms - Not Dead Yet!

Posted by Gary Wilson on Sep 24, 2013 8:32:00 AM

While not as widely used as they once were, mail and other paper surveys as scannable machine-readable forms still provide, in many cases, a reliable and cost-effective means of data collection. Thanks to online technology and some other factors, mail and paper surveys are used less frequently today than they were previously. Paper based surveys, however, still have their place in survey research and always will. Nevertheless, continued advances in online survey technology may increasingly diminish the demand.

Benefits of using paper surveys

·         Mail surveys are convenient for respondents; they can complete them when and where they prefer

·         Easily inserted into other customer or marketing mailing

·         With customization, some people feel paper surveys offer a more personal approach

·         Bulk-rate postage, automated mail preparation, large-quantity printing, and printing paper are all relatively affordable for document distribution with direct mailing services

·         Provide an efficient and often the only way of targeting opinions from populations without internet access, email addresses or phone numbers, or who refuse to respond to other types of surveys

·         Easily distributed to customers post transaction such as hotel or restaurant visits,  training seminars, conferences, etc.

·         Allow those being surveyed the chance to think about their answers in their own time

Designing, printing and processing machine readable paper surveys

Designing, producing and processing paper surveys have evolved and users of these types of survey instruments have a variety of different options available. Companies such as Scantron, Survey Systems, Data Blocks, etc. provide software applications that enable users to design and print their surveys as customized machine-readable documents. The surveys can be designed to be read by the traditional OMR (optical mark recognition), Scantron type devices or off-the-shelf image scanners which most organizations own. These software applications also create scanning templates; information passed to the scanning devices that determine respondents' choices to quantitative questions. Some of these software products also capture images of respondent free hand comments to subjective questions as well.

Machine-readable customize scan form survey–OMR technology versus Image technology

The major difference between a customized scannable survey designed for one technology or the other technology is the amount of content (survey questions, responses, demographics, etc.) that can be accommodated on a standard sheet of paper. The following are images of surveys designed based on the type of scanning technology that will be used to read these machine-readable forms:


survey documents


As seen in the examples shown above, a survey document designed for OMR scanning can accommodate a much larger amount of information on a smaller sheet of paper and still be accurately read during the scanning process using OMR scanners.


Researchers, analysts, social scientists and individuals involved in gathering data, analyzing, reporting and making recommendations like most people have a fixed amount of time that they can devote to any given survey project. Survey Systems can offer these individuals a wide range of different products and services that would enable them 100% control of the entire data collection process or to selectively use Survey Systems to provide various levels of services.

One of the decisions that would need to be made is the type of technology (OMR or Image) that would best fit the requirements of the project. In most cases, this decision is tied directly to the amount of information individuals are looking to collect. Simple surveys (small number of questions, responses, etc.) without dense demographic fields (i.e. membership ID numbers, dates, vital statistics, etc.) can best be addressed with surveys designed for image scanning. Surveys requiring large demographic fields (machine-readable name and address fields, ID numbers, etc.) are best served using surveys designed for OMR scanning.

Software Option

Survey Systems provides and supports software products that address both technologies; the Magenta Suite is based on OMR technology and the Concord Suite is based on image technology. Both of these products will allow individuals to control the entire process from survey design through production, scanning and data transmission. In some situations and depending on a survey project requirements, data can also be tabulated and various types of anaylsis reports created within both the Magenta and Concord applications.

Service Option

Another decision is your level of involvement in the entire survey process. Using your input on survey content, Survey Systems can design the document for either type of scanning, print the survey, distribute the surveys, process completed surveys, send you scanned results or tabulate scanned data into reports that meet your specifications. A detailed description of each of these service components associated with most survey projects can be provided upon receipt of the project specifications.


Paper survey documents will continue to have a place within the survey industry on many data collection projects that do not, for a variety of reasons, lend themselves to online or other forms of electronic data collection. Survey Systems can help you define and implement a paper based survey program that will meet your objectives in the most cost effective manner.



Topics: OMR customized form, custom scan form, survey form, customized survey form

School Climate Survey - OMR Scanned Forms!

Posted by Gary Wilson on Jan 4, 2013 4:55:00 PM


School District Climate Survey – OMR Scanned Forms!

Many school districts place a very high degree of value on regularly obtaining input from their stakeholders such as parents, students and staff concerning their opinions and perceptions of a school climate. School climate generally refers to the social andSchool Climate Survey environmental factors that contribute to one’s objective experience of a school and attitudes toward a school. Positive school climate reflects well-managed classrooms, high and clearly stated expectations concerning individual responsibility, feeling safe at school, and teachers and staff that consistently acknowledge all students and fairly address their attitude and behavior. Input from the stakeholders is periodically and routinely collected by conducting surveys of these groups. These surveys cover topics of safety, communication, diversity, student learning and performance. 

Virginia School District

Once again and for the seventh consecutive year, Survey Systems has been awarded the contract to provide OMR custom scan forms to one of the largest school districts in the state of Virginia. This school district annually seeks input from parents, students and staff in order to measure how these stakeholders view the climate within the school district. It believes that a healthy school climate will definitely contribute to the achievement of all of its students. The climate surveys are designed to gather opinions from parents, students and staff concerning their perceptions of school climate. The 2013 climate surveys are to be administered to nearly 58,000 elementary to high school level students, 3,800 staff, and 47,000 parents. An online survey component will be implemented to survey 3,500 teacher and other instructional personnel.

Survey Systems’ participation with the school district in support of their annual division-wide survey project has evolved over the past few years. Initially, and using their input, we reformatted their surveys (different surveys for each of the stakeholder groups) into OMR customized scan forms which were then printed and packaged. Prior to packaging, each survey was individually personalized with the name of the school and a machine-readable school ID number; information consider critical to the success of the survey project that is captured during the scanning process of completed surveys and is used to accurately identify survey responses back to specific schools. In 2012, Survey Systems will print the 2013 surveys directly from scan form design files created by the school district and will personalize each survey prior to shipment with school identification information. Even though most of the completed surveys will be sent back to Survey Systems for processing, we have been contracted to develop the scanning templates that would enable the district to scan their own surveys if and when required.

School Climate Surveys

Survey Systems has worked with other school districts in support of their school climate survey projects. Our support activities in most cases mirror those provided to the Virginia school district but with some notable distinctions. Survey projects with large school districts in Massachusetts and Minnesota also included a direct mail component; survey documents were mailed directly to parents and completed surveys mailed directly back to either the school district or Survey Systems for processing. 

OMR scanned forms for conducting school climate surveys have proven in many districts to be a better alternative than attempting to collect this information via the Internet. It is easier and more effective with less schedule disruption and a faster turn around time to have all students complete an omr scannable climate survey on paper in a classroom environment.  The alternative would be scheduling time for all students to complete the survey in the school computer lab over some extended period of time.

Collecting climate survey data from parents using OMR customized scanned forms has been proven to be most effective as measured by response rates. Parents in most school district tend not to respond to a notification to log on to a specific URL in order to complete a survey. There is a higher probability that the parents will complete a survey if the documents is handed to them by either their child or when visiting the school for teacher conferences, PTA meetings, etc.

The school district in Virginia has continued to utilize our services to support the annual school climate survey project. Each year for the past seven years, Survey Systems has been awarded the contract to provide our services through a competitive bid situation. We have been able to streamline our processes, provide competitive prices for our services and meet their tight deadlines for providing and processing OMR scan forms for their school climate project. This experience, working with other school districts with different requirements, will enable us to provide the same types of services to support their climate or other types of survey projects with competitive prices, accurate data and shorter lead-times.



Topics: OMR scan form, custom scan form, scan form design, omr form design, omr scanner