In the ever expanding world of Office 365, Microsoft has introduced another, new, compelling product to the lineup. As with a number of the recent releases, Microsoft Forms is a free product, available to customers with a compatible license for existing services. Microsoft Forms is still in preview and is not production yet; this does not mean that it is viable to be used in anger though. We are all accustomed to Microsoft releasing features in preview with Office 365 and Azure.
Next, do not be fooled by the name as I was when I saw it. My first reaction was that Microsoft Forms is a replacement for InfoPath. InfoPath is a form filing application from the Office desktop suite which has long been marked for the end of life. Microsoft Forms is not an InfoPath replacement. Microsoft Forms offers two key pieces of functionality:
- Surveys and Questionnaires
- Quizzes and Test Taking
Each of these two areas offers slightly different modalities for client use and slightly different features that can be consumed which we will look at next. Read past the break to find out more.
Using and Accessing Microsoft Forms
Microsoft Forms is accessed from https://forms.microsoft.com. Once you hit the site, you need to sign-in using the account associated with your Office 365 tenant. Once you are logged in, you will be presented with the landing page which lists all of your previously created quizzes and surveys,
To explain the user interface, the My forms tab shows forms and quizzes which have been created by you. The Other forms tab shows forms created which you have access to. Forms created by others can be shared in several ways:
- Shared within the organisation for other employees to respond
- Shared as a link for anyone to respond
- Shared within the organisation for others to edit
Forms and quizzes can be shared using a link, a QR code, an embed link (which can be added to a web page as an embedded IFRAME or into a Microsoft Sway presentation), and as an email link. Forms and quizzes can be saved as templates to allow base questions to be reused.
The overall user experience can be branded using one of the default themes or using custom imagery uploaded to Microsoft Forms.
Creating a Form or Quiz
To create a form or quiz, simply select the New Form or the New Quiz button. The important difference between the two is correctness. A form is a survey. Questions and answers have no correct answer. Forms are designed for users to submit their thoughts and opinions on a topic. A quiz is used to perform testing. Questions are asked and have correct answers. Users submit answers to questions and can be marked based on those answers.
Once you create a new form or quiz, the first thing to do is to configure the header area. This allows you to set a title, a description, and an image for the survey.
Once you have added the information you want to, it is time to add your first question. Select the Add Question button to select the question type.
Each of the question types elicit certain response types. This is where the difference between a quiz and survey becomes apparent. A quiz question has correct answers. A survey question does not have a correct answer. Below, the two images depict the difference. The first image shows a form question; a question without a correct answer.
The next image shows a quiz question. You can see that using the Microsoft Forms interface, we have the ability to mark responses as correct and incorrect. For incorrect answers, we can provide the user with information regarding their response. We can hint to the user that their answer was incorrect and we can provide them information on why their answer was wrong. This additional feedback is optional.
We can also use branching logic in quizzes and forms to develop complex trees of questions. Dependant on the type of parent question you use, you can determine the branch based on the answer. For example, a choice question with responses of yes and no allows you to branch to a different question for each of the responses.
Responding to Forms
Once a form is published, users can complete the form using a browser. Microsoft Forms is supported in all of the major browsers, not just the Microsoft ones.
In addition to the browser based form completion, there is a Microsoft Forms app. The Microsoft Forms app is mandatory for quizzes which have the block internet access feature enabled. This feature is exclusive to quizzes. It is designed to prevent the device from accessing the internet whilst taking the quiz. This can be really useful when running tests and assessments when test conditions need to be maintained preventing people from Googling for answers.
Once a quiz or form has been published and responses are available, the creator or other users with authorisation can view the responses. Responses are shown in a nice graphical layout and there is an option to export to Excel.
The option to export the results to Excel is welcome, however, I would have also liked to see an option to export the results to Power BI. This may come in the future however, it is not available now. There is, of course, no reason that you could not export the data to Excel, save it to SharePoint or OneDrive for Business and connect it to Power BI from there. These are extra steps of course and a direct connection to Power BI would have been much nicer.
I hope that this has suitably introduced Microsoft Forms to you. I challenge you all to go out and give it a try and if you find fault, feed it back to Microsoft. Feedback makes the product stronger. I am sure there are things which will change and improve once the product goes GA out of preview. Thinking about the Microsoft eco-system, I can see a place for Microsoft Forms to replace the native survey features in SharePoint Online. Microsoft Forms is much richer and offers a better authoring, completion and review interface. Enjoy.