METHOD FOR PAPERLESS ATTACHMENT
OF SUPPLEMENTARY FORMS TO A
WORLD WIDE WEB APPLICATION
RELATED APPLICATIONS 5
This application claims priority from U.S. Provisional patent application 60/119,496, filed Feb. 10, 1999.
TECHNICAL FIELD 10
This invention relates to a method and apparatus for electronic processing of forms over a global computer network, and in particular, to attaching documents from a variety of sources to electronic forms. 15
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
There are many advantages to the electronic filing of applications for admission to institutions of higher learning, 2o such as colleges and universities. Electronic applications provide the institution with application data almost immediately after the application is completed, and data is in a form that is immediately accessible for processing by admissions personnel to assist in recruiting efforts. Although some 25 schools allow direct electronic application, many chose to take advantage of the special expertise available at service providers, such as CollegeNET, Inc., the creator of the Apply WebTM system that services institutions and students by, among other things, processing admission applications. 30 The Apply WebTM system is powered by the Universal Forms Engine, which is owned by Universal Algorithms and is described in co-pending U.S. patent application Ser. No. 09/325,533, which is hereby incorporated by reference.
The Apply WebTM system handles the applications and fee 35 processing for many institutions and provides the institutions with the data they want in the form they require. ApplyWebTM services can be transparent to the student, allowing applications to be "branded" with an institution's own logo and making applications accessible to potential 40 students through the university's web site, or through the CollegeNet site of CollegeNET, Inc.
When applicants using the ApplyWebTM system enter information into an application, the information is stored and automatically populates corresponding fields in subse- 45 quent applications. Unfortunately, certain attachments to applications, such as high school transcripts, must still be separately mailed to the institution and processed manually. Thus, until the high school mails a transcript to the college or university, the application package is not complete. 50
Although some high schools have the equipment to convert a transcript to digital form by scanning and e-mailing the transcript to the institution, many high schools do not yet have such technology. Moreover, upon receiving a scanned transcript, the institution would still have the problem of 55 matching the transcript with the application. Lastly, the large number of high schools and institutions, combined with the many different data formats available, makes electronic data transfer directly between high schools and institutions a difficult problem. 60
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
An object of the invention is paperless processing of admission applications. 65
Another object of the invention is to present a complete electronic applications package to an institution.
Another object of the invention is to allow high schools with technology limited to a simple fax machine to provide electronic transcripts in a form useful to an institution.
Still another object of the invention is to allow electronic admissions applications to be sufficiently complete for processing without requiring mailing of attachments.
Yet another object of the invention is to facilitate the attachment of documents from any of multiple sources to an electronic form to be transmitted to any of multiple destinations.
Additional objects, advantages and novel features of the invention will become apparent from the detailed description and drawings of the invention.
In accordance with the invention, an electronic copy of a high school transcript can be attached to an electronic application for admission to an institution. The high school providing the transcript is required to have only a simple fax machine. When a student requests that a transcript accompany an electronic application, a request for the transcript is automatically generated by the application servicer and transmitted to the high school. The request includes a return facsimile cover sheet that includes an identifier that can be automatically machine-interpreted when the cover sheet is transmitted back to the servicer with the transcript. The identifier marking is sufficiently robust that it will be machine interpretable, even after rough treatment or serial copying and transmission by the high school. Upon receipt of the transcript facsimile, the servicer automatically interprets the identifying information on the return facsimile cover sheet to identify the student and the particular admissions application for which the transcript was request. The transcript is forwarded preferably along with application to the appropriate institution after being converted, if necessary, to a data format specified by the institution.
The servicer may also store the transcript in electronic form in a secure database. When the student completes another application for admission to a different institution or a different term, the electronic copy of the transcript can be attached to the new application without requiring another transmission from the high school. Each facsimile cover sheet is preferably "branded" with the logo of the institution to which the student is applying, although the return facsimile number is preferably a toll free number to a computer facsimile server of the servicer. Thus, the servicer can be invisible to the high school.
The system of the present invention eliminates the requirement for the institution to match up a later-received paper transcript with an earlier received electronic application. It also simplifies the high school's job of sending transcripts because the high school does not need to read and understand the student's request, verify the student's signature, identify the institution to which the transcript is to be mailed, generate a transmittal letter, and address and put postage on an envelope. A facsimile request in accordance with the invention is in a standard, easy to read format and the high school merely reads the clearly identified student name and transmits the transcript to the toll free number using the cover sheet provided.
The invention is not limited to use with high school transcripts and admissions applications, but is useful in any situation in which documents from multiple providers need to be associated together and forwarded to a document recipient. In particular, the invention can be used when one or more documents from one or more document providers from a first group of document providers needs to be associated with an electronic form for transmission to one or more members of a group of recipients. The invention solves