Can you help me crowd source a solution?

I work in the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Leicester. This comprises 4 departments and we run 11 degree streams. Before Easter our 200 second year undergraduates need to choose a library or laboratory research project to undertake in their third year.

Traditionally, students have submitted their project choices on paper, creating a lot of administrative work across four departments to make sure everyone has a project to do. Last year we used a google form to collect student choices, and while this worked fairly well, the form was pretty long and relied on free text entry for the descriptions of the projects, staff names and departments. This led to a lot of man-handling of the data submitted (different/ incorrect spellings or abbreviations of departments, deviations of project titles etc).

This year, students will make five choices from a list of over 200 projects that have been anonymised so that the choices are made on the basis of the description of the project and the department and not on the supervisor. We will give each project a code, and have already entered all the details into an excel sheet so we can tie the project code to the supervisor.

We need a solution that will enable students to enter their project code and then have the title of the project displayed as a check to make sure they have entered the code correctly. The list of projects is just too long for a drop down list, even when split by department (around 50 in each).

Does anyone have any suggestions of tools that we can use for students to submit this type of information, so that we get it in a format that we can use, and they get confirmation of the project titles they have chosen? A simple google form isn’t going to hack it!

All suggestions welcome!!

3 thoughts on “Can you help me crowd source a solution?”

  1. I can’t think of a Web 2.0 solution that doesn’t require a bit of hacking. However bizarrely Plone might work see as a quick example (you’ll need to login – hopefully I’ve given you the right CFS permissions – if not email me).

    The plone form has a form save data adapter which saves the data in to CSV format that you can later import in to access/excel.

    1. Not exactly what you’re asking for, but given that they only have to enter five three-digit numbers and it’s an important decision, is there any need to give them feedback to confirm that the five they have selected correspond to the titles they have selected? (I know what students are like, but sometimes “it’s your own stupid fault for entering the wrong number” is an appropriate response).

      I can think of ways of doing this with JavaScript, but that would involve development time (I’d give it a bash myself if it wasn’t years since I wrote any serious JS – you could have an array with the project titles, and then when a number is entered in the text field change the contents of a paragraph to the appropriate element of the array).

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