Processing 2,500+ student applications is a breeze for Outward Bound California

Change lives through challenge and discovery.

That’s the mission of outdoor education nonprofit, Outward Bound California.

Outward Bound California is part of a national network of Outward Bound schools that have been in the U.S. for over 60 years. In California alone, their programs serve more than 2,500 adolescents, adults, and veterans each year to help them build character, an ethic of service, and leadership through challenging outdoor wilderness activities.

With 2,500+ students coming through Outward Bound California’s doors, it’s no secret that the organization handles a lot of data.

For some time, student services and sales manager, Chelsea Knoren, used multipage paper forms to collect student information.

Chelsea soon realized this process was tedious and time-consuming for both the Outward Bound California team members receiving the forms and students filing them out — since they’d need a printer and scanner to return the paperwork.

She knew there had to be a better way.

Hiking Kids
Photo by Rikki Dunn

Chelsea searched the web for an information collection tool that would be easy for both students and her teammates to use. The tool also needed to effortlessly turn information into polished, professional-looking PDF documents.

It needed to be versatile, so she had the flexibility to create different forms; easy-to-use because of her limited technical knowledge; and cost effective. After looking through a few form builder tools, Jotform was the clear choice.

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Workflow efficiency

Once Chelsea and her team started using Jotform, their workflow efficiency increased tenfold and processing student information became a breeze.

Jotform forms were an easy access point for students because they can fill out forms at home, in a school computer lab, or at the library.

Students are able to submit forms quickly, which helps Outward Bound California confirm spots a lot faster than when they were using paper forms.

Rock Climbing Woman
Photo by Rikki Dunn

Once a student submits their form, the data is immediately converted into a PDF and is instantly sent to one of the course advisor’s emails. From there, the advisor can download and process it.

“Turning form data into PDFs is something we needed and weren’t able to use with other form builders because they required a merger. This is a built-in feature with JotForm.”

Form use cases

Outward Bound California uses Jotform to create a variety of forms for collecting general student information, medical history, dietary needs, feedback, and more.

Getting detailed medical and dietary information is a big must. When their team takes students into the wilderness, it’s important to know if there are any medical issues in case of an emergency.

Dietary needs are also extremely important. Typically, Outward Bound California packs food for a couple of weeks and needs to know if there are any allergies to be aware of.

With Jotform, students can easily share diet restrictions as well as foods or ingredients they may be allergic to. Knowing this information in advance helps Outward Bound California plan accordingly and avoid any issues.

“We have an online application for students once they’ve come through Outward Bound California’s programming to find out medical, emergency, and dietary information. We collect data on students in order to keep them safe.”

Hiking Group
Photo by Rikki Dunn

Gathering feedback from both students and parents is also essential for Outward Bound California to ensure that they’re meeting expectations and enhancing their program where they can.

At the end of each excursion, students and parents are sent separate surveys. These surveys provide them the opportunity to share what they liked and didn’t like about their experiences. Receiving regular feedback from both parties helps Outward Bound California modify their programs and make improvements.

Outward Bound California has changed thousands of lives through challenge and discovery. And Jotform has changed the way they gather, organize, and manage their collected information.  

Annabel is a former Director of Communications at Jotform. She's passionate about writing and has worked in communications roles domestically and internationally. When she's not blogging about SaaS or online forms, she enjoys international travel, loud concerts, and artisan coffee.

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