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Ask HN: Let's make an open source/free SaaS platform to tackle school forms
12 points by busymichael 59 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 12 comments
I have 4 kids. I am filling out all the start of school forms for each kid. I have to fill out these same forms each year. Are you doing the same thing? Let's make this year the last year we are manually filling out forms -- let's build a SaaS platform for school forms. Community built, open-sourced, free.

Brief sketch of the idea: survey monkey + docusign, but with a 100 pre-built templates for K-12 school situations. Medical emergency form. Carpool form. Field trip permission form. Backend gives schools an easy way to customize and track forms. Forms are emailed to parents and filled out online. Parent's information is saved so that any new form is pre-filled in with as much known info as possible.

Anyone feeling the same pain? Anyone want to join with me and do it?

I've been developing apps for the school systems for years now. There are existing systems that can handle their forms. The tech isn't the problem. Implementation, and making it easy for all levels of staff in a district to use are the challenges you would need to resolve. Sending papers home with kids and getting completed papers back is archaic and unreliable... but easy on teachers.

Also, keep in mind that not all families have computers. Not all parents have email. A solution that doesn't work for the low income, or homeless children, is a non-starter.

The idea is good... I'm not trying to discourage it. Just that the problems that need solved likely are not what you think they are.

I also work with schools (including registration) and agree fully with codingdave. The problems are almost always related to practical not technical issues in education.

That said, Id love to support an open source solution that school providers (be it formal companies or people helping out) could use. Offline upload (eg by admins scanning docs at the school) is a must, also mobile support (where I am most parents have phones, very few have laptops)

Good point about low income, homeless. We would have to figure that out.

I envision a database of template forms that make it easy for a school to get started. Also, a way for a parent to digitize a form on their own, then share it with other parents.

Oh man, I'm in the midst of some of this right now. Theres no dowloadable form for certain things because they want it on identical sizes and types of paper... I have terrible handwriting and its killing me.

For work stuff,docusign already solves this. Why are schools not on docusign? Budgets? For the same reason they may not subscribe to your potential startup?

Not a startup. Free service for schools, parents. Built by parents, community-run, not for profit.

I think the real problem is incentive: the school has no incentive to digitize the form - it is easy for them to just copy the old form and send it out each year. If we build a database of common forms and give parents/schools easy ways to digitize old forms, it gets them over the hurdle.

Plus, docusign, etc. don't build a structured database with the data to make it easy to access.

If the incentive were financial based on the cost per copy of printing, a 10,000 student school with .02 per copy is still only $200 to print a paper form per kid.

You're also talking about collecting personal data (contact info, medical info, etc.) digitally which brings on a whole mess of laws for this free service to deal with.

Not a bad idea. The only other hurdle would be ISDs would want to have proper support contracts which is hard to have without some form of a fee. Perhaps the community version can have a paid "enterprise" version?

Sort of, my daughters school just needs the tech help. A solid online FAQ that is maintained would be more valuable to me

Technically, a checkbox may qualify as a digital signature; however, identification / authentication and storage integrity are fairly challengeable (just as a written signature on a piece of paper with a date written on it is challengeable)

Given that notarization is not required for parental consent forms, I'm not sure what sort of server security expense is justified or feasible.

How much does processing all of the paper forms cost each school? Per-student?

In terms of storing digital record of authorization, a private set of per-student OpenBadges with each OpenBadge issued by the school would be easy enough. W3C Verified Claims (and Linked Data Signatures) are the latest standards for this sort of thing.

We could evaluate our current standards for chain of custody in regards to the level of trust we place in commercial e-signature platforms.

The school could send home a sheet with a QR code and a shorturl, but that would be more expensive than running hundreds of copies of the same sheet of paper.

The school could require a parent or guardian's email address for each student in the SIS Student Information System and email unique links to prefilled forms requesting authorization(s).

Just as with e-Voting, assuring that the person who checks a checkbox or tries to scribble their signature with a mouse or touchscreen is the authorized individual may be more difficult than verifying that a given written signature is that of the parent or guardian authorized to authorize.

AFAIU, Google Forms for School can include the logged-in user's username; but parents don't have school domain accounts with Google Apps for Education or Google Classroom.

How would the solution integrate with schools' existing SIS (Student Information Systems)? Upload a CSV of (student, {student info}, {guardian email (s)})? This is private information that deserves security, which costs money.

Which users can log-in for the school and/or district to check the state of the permission / authorization requests and PII personally-identifiable information.

While cryptographic signatures may be overkill as a substitute for permission slips, FWIW, a timestamp within a cryptographically-signed document only indicates what the local clock was set to at the time. Blockchains have relatively indisputable timestamps ("certainly no later than the time that the tx made it into a block"), but blockchains don't solve for proving the key-person relation at a given point in time.

And also, my parent or guardian said you can take me on field trips if you want. https://backpack.openbadges.org/

why not google form?

The problem isn't that schools don't have options, it is that they don't have the incentive. The easy thing for them to do is just send out the same old paper forms. We need to build the template database and give parents the tools to do the form conversion.

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