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As a teacher I am in need to create worksheets for my students, especially while many are learning from home during lockdown. The idea is that the students download the worksheet and either print it and fill it out by hand, or insert text using any pdf software.

Problems: The student worksheet version still has all the sample solutions, and a smart student can easily extract them. Also, any images or canvas drawings still need to be deleted manually.

Question: How can I comfortably use Word 365 to create a worksheet where sample solutions cannot be extracted? VBA is fine, only downside is that automatic saving won't work for me anymore, as all files are stored in OneDrive.


My current workflow:

  1. Create a student worksheet in Word 365 which includes all sample solutions.

    [Task]-teacher.docx and [Task]-teacher.pdf

    These solutions have their own style, let's call it "Solution". "Solution" has the font "Segoe Script", the font size ten and the font color is red. Any paragraph or formula has that style. This font in combination with its font size comes close to the actual handwriting of my students, so that any space I reserve for individual solutions is sufficient. Questions where students need to explain something also have a black underline.

File with sample solutions

  1. Create a copy of the sample solution file with "hidden" solutions

    [Task]-student.docx and [Task]-student.pdf

    Change the font color of "Solution" to white. Sample solutions are not visible any more as the white background now matches the white font. The black underline is still visible so that students can write on those.

enter image description here

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    Try changing the text to "hidden" rather than white. White text is still there and can be extracted. --- PDFs from Word are not normally "fillable" in pdf format. This will definitely depend on the software the students are using. – Charles Kenyon Feb 27 at 17:11
  • Thank you. I wasn't aware of that option. My students mostly just use the comment or signature feature of free PDF software, which is fine. – Phil Feb 27 at 18:13
  • Problem is that hidden text also eliminates all the reserved space of the sample solution. The whole layout is changed that way. – Phil Feb 27 at 21:53
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I can think of several methods.

Method 1 : Keep two versions

Having two versions, one with the examples and one without, is the safest solution.

Method 2 : Replace "Solution" characters

When generating the file for the students, you may replace all characters having the "Solution" style by blank or underscore. This will allow you to hand over the DOCX file for the students to fill using Word, rather than a PDF. You may also create a macro to do this automatically.

The major drawback to this method is that storing the document will destroy the solutions, so this is best done on a discardable copy.

You need to use the "More >>" button in the "Find and Replace" dialog, then enable wildcards and use the button Format > Style... to select the "Solution" style. In the screenshot below, I chose the style of "Balloon Text":

enter image description here

Comment : Print to PDF with fillable forms

If you decide to use from Word the "Print to PDF", you can still generate a PDF with fillable forms.

For exact instructions, see the article Create a Fillable PDF Form from a Word Document.

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  • Thank you. I'm already using your mentioned method one in a sense that the file with the sample solutions is needed for students who couldn't attend the online class and therefore need it to complete and correct their worksheet without help. So, I always have both versions, "teacher" and "student". Method two seems promising but "?" plus the format style still replaces all characters in the whole document. "[a-zA-Z0-1]" might do the trick as the sample solutions cannot be extracted again. For method three each update of a worksheet needs to be recreated as a fillable pdf form. – Phil Feb 27 at 21:52
  • I was trying out the search and replace pane and was encountering issues. I noticed that it only properly works when the solution style type is "Character". Only then was I able to change all characters with the "?" wildcard. The "Linked" style type always had a different result. Might be a bug or my incompetence. To preserve reserved solution space, I added a new style which again has a white font color. So, in the end the search and replacement will replace all characters of the solution to a white character. This works for me so thank you for your solution. – Phil Feb 27 at 23:10

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