Quick guide to digitizing liability waivers in education
How to create a seamless, secure signing process for waivers and release of liability forms
Creating a seamless, secure signing process for waivers and release of liability forms
Some school activities come with a risk of physical injury or property damage. Many schools use liability waivers to help ensure that participants are aware of and accepting of these risks for scenarios like sports events, field trips, off-campus social activities, or travel.
Digitizing liability waivers and enabling electronic signatures is a great way to manage these forms. Going paperless makes it faster and easier to distribute them, reduces the effort required to track the status for each participant, and increases participation and compliance.
Why should you digitize liability waivers?
Sending paper liability waivers home with students results in a lot of lost and incomplete forms. Securely delivering waivers directly to students and parents via email or an online portal enhances the flow of information and improves completion rates. Digital forms also reduce the amount of time spent distributing, tracking, reminding, copying, and storing these critical documents.
Improve completion and participation
Digital liability waivers can increase completion and participation rates in several different ways:
- Contact everyone: Get receipt notifications to ensure that forms get to everyone, instead of sitting in the bottom of a school bag.
- Expanded information: Provide additional guidance with the form, such as help text on fields, broader explanations, and clickable links for background or supplementary material.
- Automated reminders: Help people remember to complete and sign the form with completion deadlines and automated reminders
Reduce time spent
Electronic document tools also make it faster and easier to manage the entire process:
- Easier tracking: Track each form in real time, including details of receipts, views, and completions for every document. If there are guardianship changes or other issues, easily change the intended signer or add alternates.
- Fewer errors: Auto-completion for names, dates, and email addresses, dropdown menu selections, and identification of required fields minimizes errors and omissions.
- Less worry: Protect private and confidential information with security and privacy controls. Authorized users can easily store, search, and retrieve waivers from any device and location, reducing the need for stacks of photocopies for each teacher and activity.
Step-by-step guide to paperless electronic waivers
Creating and using electronic liability waivers has two main components: building the form and sending it for signatures. Your school board, state education department, or insurer probably has a template you can use. Laws regulating liability waivers vary depending on location and use case. You should make sure that the form you use is one that fits your specific use case and has been reviewed by a lawyer.
Build the form
Identify required information
In most cases waivers require clear information about the activity and the risks involved, in clear language that the participants can understand. You may also need to include fields such as the date and location of the activity, identifying information for the student, and space for the signature and date.
Create a digital form
You have some options here:
- To build the content, you can start from scratch by using a tool like Google Docs or Microsoft Word or scanning existing forms and converting them to PDFs.
- Once you have your content, you can introduce fillable fields with tools like Adobe Acrobat or Adobe Sign.
Set field validation rules
A range of field options helps reduce errors during form completion. Text entry, check boxes, radio buttons, drop down selections, initials, and signatures are just a few of the field types that make completing the form easier. You can also include default values, validation rules, and tips for the reader that provide additional guidance.
Identify required fields
To help get forms competed correctly the first time, you can identify which fields must be completed and which are optional. Unless the required fields have been completed, participants cannot sign or submit the form.
Save and publish
Finally, when the waiver is complete, you can ask others in the organization to review and comment online. When it is finished, send it for distribution — and consider introducing electronic signatures, which can save up to 1.5 hours per signature.
Send for signature
Select a digital signature tool
You need to select a signature tool, such as Adobe Sign, to enable electronic signatures on your waivers. Look for a tool that provides additional capabilities, such as digital workflows that help to speed up and automate the process.
Distribute the waiver
A wide range of applications are integrated with e-signature solutions, such as Microsoft 365, enabling you to send documents out for signing directly from applications you already use. Support for a variety of file formats and methods means that you can easily request signatures via email, post forms on your website, or use Adobe Document Cloud.
Manage dates and status
Using the digital signature workflows in Adobe Sign, you can get automatic notifications when waivers are viewed and signed and track the status of waivers on the management dashboard. You can also add completion dates and setup automatic reminders, so that you do not have to chase people who have not signed.
Store and reference completed forms, or collect in database
Finally, as forms are signed and returned as completed PDFs, you can store them in your preferred document management system or collect the responses in a spreadsheet or database for easy review and retrieval of key information.
A few closing thoughts
When you are creating or revising online liability waivers here are some other things to consider.
- Make them readable
An important characteristic of forms that get high return rates is clear, simple language that is easy to read and catches the reader’s attention. Minimize the use of acronyms and jargon and define what you do use.
- Watch your language
Write in a language that recipients are comfortable with or provide a translation.
- Support accessibility
Accessibility refers to support for a wide range of devices and signing options as well as people with different abilities. E-signature methods typically include typing a signature, drawing on a touch screen, pasting in a saved image of a signature, and/or using a digital certificate. Other accessibility tools include screen magnifiers, text to speech functions, and simpler displays and formats.
- Protect privacy
The information contained in completed waivers can be private and confidential, so you will want to protect the contents. There are some steps you can take to make sure the forms are unalterable by the signer, and the full contents locked once they are signed. Document passwords are a good first line of defense, and other techniques can be layered on top as necessary for compliance with privacy regulations. Additional identity verification techniques are available when required, including phone numbers, authenticator services, and government-issued ID.