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Aspen MIS Direct Support Thread, Quick-fire Aspen MIS Questions in Direct Support; If you have any quick-fire 'Does Aspen MIS do this' or 'How does Aspen MIS do that', questions, ask them ...
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    GREED's Avatar
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    Quick-fire Aspen MIS Questions

    If you have any quick-fire 'Does Aspen MIS do this' or 'How does Aspen MIS do that', questions, ask them here and we'll be happy to answer them!
    Last edited by GREED; 16th January 2013 at 11:06 AM.

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    FN-GM's Avatar
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    Do you provide iOS apps?

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    GREED's Avatar
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    For other Follett products (in and around the library management space)we do yes. Currently we have no Follett produced apps for Aspen MIS, although our R&D department have been looking into this for a little while now... watch this space!

    You might be interested to know that Follett are partners with Groupcall and we already have integration with Messenger (and Xporter), and just putting the final touches to Emerge integration including all the new features with conduct/behaviour reporting.

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    More of a query, but for those of us stuck in a SIMs world, what's the top few things Aspen does that would make people go wowz?

    Steve

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    GREED's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve21 View Post
    More of a query, but for those of us stuck in a SIMs world, what's the top few things Aspen does that would make people go wowz?

    Steve
    Hi Steve

    I am going to beg for a short time to respond to that. If you know Sky Sports' Soccer AM, you'll know the reference to 'one question and one question only', only in this case I have one answer only, and I want to ensure I respond with everything that Aspen MIS does to make people go wow (or as a colleague said to me the other day... floppy jawed!). There is a lot I want to make sure I capture it all!
    Last edited by GREED; 9th October 2012 at 07:50 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by GREED View Post
    I am going to beg for a short time to respond to that.
    No need to beg! Take all the time you want, Just nice to know bit more about other services out there and don't always get the time to research every company hehe. I'm sure there will be a lot of items people will look at and have never seen/knew MISs used etc, so yarr

    Thanks,
    Steve

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    Hi Graham

    Is the interface customisable?

    i.e can the colours be changed etc
    Last edited by ntm1275; 9th October 2012 at 11:41 PM.

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    GREED's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ntm1275 View Post
    Hi Graham

    Is the interface customisable?

    i.e can the colours be changed etc
    I can answer that much quicker, although this is just one of the many aspects that I will also reply to steve with.

    Yes, completely. Right down to the layout of every record screen, list view and page. Locations of fields, fields themselves, both custom and built in can be altered if wished to suit you school or LA. labels to every field can be altered even into different languages, and soon a multi language feature (pioneered in our sister application Destiny). You can even put complex validation on your custom fields. You can even create multiple versions of a screen for different users or uses if you want to. Pages in Aspen MIS refers to a intranet technology not unlike sharepoint used to display content to groups of users of the system. It is just as customisable as sharepoint without the need for a specialist developer to use and build it.

    Ironically, the only thing you currently cannot do is alter the skin colour, although there is a big overhaul coming within the next year to the interface. In Aspen MIS the colour of each 'view' or portal indicates where you are so it does have its uses/reasons.

    Aspen MIS is the most customisable system I have ever seen or used, the tools you have are the same tools the configurations specialists have who work with you to make the system your own. If you really want to, you have access elements of the source code to extend the system even further if you are a dab hand with Java!
    Last edited by GREED; 10th October 2012 at 12:01 AM.

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    vikpaw's Avatar
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    Not sure i'm allowed to answer, but if i had to sum it up @Steve21 , i would say that ASPEN has built a CMS for the DB. This basically allows you to adapt the software to your needs without breaking it. This to me is a really really big thing. Yes, there's a massive list of modules, tasks, features etc. that @GREED will supply which are also floppyjawifying, but this one underlying feature makes it rather unique.

    EDIT: *IMHO*
    Last edited by vikpaw; 10th October 2012 at 12:32 PM.

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    GREED (10th October 2012), Steve21 (10th October 2012)

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    To follow on from @FNGM 's question. If you access from a portable device - does the interface adapt? Like, is it usable basically?

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    GREED's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by vikpaw View Post
    To follow on from @FNGM 's question. If you access from a portable device - does the interface adapt? Like, is it usable basically?
    Is it usable? Yes it definitely is, we have schools using tablet devices to take attendance registers and enter behavioural issues right now. That is the beauty with having a truly cloud MIS, hosted in a UK data centre (unless you wish to host yourself of course) meaning it really is available anywhere any time... and you get the lot, not just a bit of attendance here or data there, everything. I could create next years timetable on a tablet (if I really wanted to).

    When you say adapt, we currently don't have a 'mobile' skin, but again the great thing about the way Aspen MIS was designed is that the page framework is such that it is very lightweight already (page sizes are nothing!), making mobile use very easy.

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    vikpaw (10th October 2012)

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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve21 View Post
    More of a query, but for those of us stuck in a SIMs world, what's the top few things Aspen does that would make people go wowz?

    Steve
    Right here goes… what makes people go wow to Aspen MIS. I’ll pull out the headlines for each, contact me for more information on specifics (obviously I have to be a little careful, lest those pesky kids from competitors get ideas! ):

    Obviously to compete in the market, we have all the usual features like attendance, behaviour management, markbooks, exams, timetables & options, staff student and parent records etc etc (mostly in very easy to use and navigate screens, that are very efficient to use), and then we have:

    Workflow Management – One of the features I like the most is Aspen MIS’ workflow engine, which is the ability to build a business workflow directly into the application. For example, staff holidays – there is a process of authorisation of one, two or more people to go through and forms to fill out. The forms can be built in Aspen on screen (Aspen screens), completed on screen, sent within Aspen to the manager, the HR manager etc etc who receive alerts to authorise or unauthorised the process, and depending on each task or decision, the engine will take the correct next step. The beauty is this can be built for ANY purpose.

    Customise Exports AND Imports – Exports is easy, importing information back into the system is a little bit more tricky most of the time. In Aspen MIS the tools are provided (with a little knowledge!). One of our UK customers is already building their own imports just over a month after going live. Brilliant.

    Custom Procedures – Procedures in Aspen MIS are processes that happen behind the scenes to complete a task, like scheduling reports to run, or incrementing an academic year forward (built in obviously). You have the power to build you own (if you find a need that is).

    Custom ‘Template’ Design for User Interfaces – This is a biggy: For every screen you see in Aspen MIS, that is a person record, attendance record, etc, you can customise the look and feel. Everything from the locations of fields (including the built-in ones, not just ‘udf’ field), but the lables on those fields, add or remove any/all of them, add validation to them using common SQL validation rules. Even you custom UDFs can be any type of field commonly used in a SQL-type database, not just date/number/text etc. And then the cheery on top: you can create as many versions of the same screens as you want, to give roles of users in the system the option on how they want to see the information. All of this is available to you as the school.

    Data Dictionary – This is what drives the data in Aspen MIS, it is the interface to the database tables and columns themselves, and you can access and safely modify (within reason!)

    Multi-tenancy – For Local Authorities and Academy Trusts: Aspen MIS is built to house multiple schools within a single MIS. Each school only accesses their own information (obviously) and normally has no interaction with other schools via the MIS (although on a community/communication level this is possible!), but higher than that from a data management level they are all part of the same core database and where applicable, authorised and wish to (particularly trusts), there is a Trust/LA level access that can access analyse and pull on data cross schools, just like it is one big database (because it is!).

    I will say on this point that access can and is very tightly controlled in this or any similar scenario, and this is by far not the only option for any schools who may suddenly jump in panic at the thought there is a higher level access to your data… be assured there are many options even in a multi-tenancy group scenario! Feel free to talk to me more if you have concerns.

    It should be said however – Trust Companies LOVE this so far!

    Built-in Parent Portal AND Student Portal– What more can I say. Ours is built in at no extra cost. Enough said! Our Student portal is similar to the traditional parent portal access, but student interact with the learning platform, complete homework etc etc.

    Built-in Email Messaging – We also partner with Groupcall to use all of their mobile and messaging applications.

    Options Selection – We handle options. A nice feature is that students through their student portal can choose their options for next year, and going through the mill those choices are then entered directly into the timetable engine for next year… simple.

    Comprehensive Timetable Engine – Including Cross Schools Timetabling and Multi-Pattern Timetables: There is a lot to say here and a lot of it is specialised to timetablers, but one piece of interesting news: Aspen MIS was the world’s first online timetable engine tool, and is widely regarded to be one of the best matching algorithms there is (look it up, not just me saying it!). It even has tools to analyse quickly what versions of a timetable during the build process are going to be the most efficient! Oh, and all information is at hand, you don't have to sync back and forth through the database to transfer the timetable...

    Reporting Engine – Aspen MIS, instead of having a built in interface for creating reports, uses iReport (a free, open source version of Crystal Reports). Why say this? Because if you know Crystal Report (Or Business Objects as it is now called) the you know you can create reports on par with those used in the banking sector, or in fact any software generated reports there are, including a full set of charting and pivoting tools. The power is that iReport handles the report framework, Aspen the data.

    Aspen Pages – A powerful intranet environment, built into the MIS! I could talk for days about Pages, but in essence that is what it is. On par with a SharePoint or Moodle type environment, including common ‘widgets’, but without the need to know how to code! Used for community pages, lesson pages, and in fact this tips into being a VLE delivery platform right out of the box. In fact many schools are using this not only for the intranet but are also replacing their traditional VLE. Pages pulls on a lot of traditional MIS data to use alongside content to make it incredibly powerful.

    Built-In Learning Platform – A LP built in. Not a bolt on or app, and not requiring synchronisation or anything silly like that. It is just there. Part Pages, part Curriculum Planner makes up ‘Aspen Learning’.

    Built-in Curriculum Planner – Use imported curriculum standards to build a curriculum plan from year wide to individual lesson plans and share them with your colleagues, or have your department heads create them and share them down to the teachers, and everything in between. You can use the Federated Resource Searching Tool – Quest to find and pull in resources (files, links, pictures, video etc) into the lesson plans and have them ready and available for you and your class. And remember this is anywhere any time!

    Federated Resource Searching Tool – Quest – Utilising Follett’s history in the publishing market and our links with many content providers, Quest is a search tool for staff and students to use to aid their work, to find educational resources either freely available or paid for by the school – all in one place. It is a bit like a Google search of all safe, vetted, education sites and resources, aligned to curriculum outcomes. You can also include internal (within the school) resources sources or created by your staff.

    Unique Markbook Management – Lets face it, a mark book is like all the others, a giant spreadsheets! Aspen MIS’ is no different in that respect, you can add numbers, gradesets, comments, etc. What makes Aspen MIS different is that the markbooks are setup automatically from the timetable (doesn’t have to be, but saves a lot of time!), summative columns are still set up but are much more universal than others (basically a lot of this is set up once from the start and setting are put into place to cater for variation), and then the big one: Teachers can then add their own columns to their own markbooks ad hoc, for any purpose. Really trying to remove the physical markbook from the desk, our teachers are entering everything from quiz scores to observational comments to coursework progress. AND THEN… this links to the ability to assign, distribute, collect and mark homework through Aspen MIS.

    Homework Management – Teachers can create homework assignments (or any assignments in fact), distribute individual copies to their class pupils who pick this up through their portal, download, complete, upload the work, where a teacher will collect and mark, give feedback and feed the scores (automatically) into the markbook – all without leaving the Aspen Environment (expect for the attached homework, say Word). You can even create online quizzes through Aspen which can self mark and pump scores directly into the markbook, and analyse individual question responses cross class.

    Statutory Census Reports – Our census validation and reports a built separate from the application framework, which means we don’t have to re-release the software each time the census changes, we simply drop in the new requirements (oooh, hot topic!).

    Integrate with Google Docs – Aspen MIS has deep integration with Google Docs, and soon Office 365, allowing documents to be shared via Aspen into a collaborative workspace. Aspen MIS does more than just link to the documents, in particular with homework it create individual versions of the document, one per pupil.
    Last edited by GREED; 10th October 2012 at 03:56 PM.

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    ..and breathe!

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    Having had a recent presentation of APSEN, the features it contains it definitely a jaw dropping experience - no other web based MIS comes near the functionality for schools or LA's

    ASPEN could conceivably be used as an all UK system; it's that feature rich

    The only downside that I could find was the interface is very standard looking - hence that question about whether it could be customised, but if this is going to be redesigned in the next year this may make it virtually perfect

    My current score is 9 out of 10, with the interface losing 1 point

    The best interface I've seem by a county mile is Bromcom - so you may want to have a peek at that Graham - it is such a wonderfully pleasant experience to look at
    Last edited by ntm1275; 10th October 2012 at 03:13 PM.

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    GREED's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ntm1275 View Post
    Having had a recent presentation of APSEN, the features it contains it definitely a jaw dropping experience - no other web based MIS comes near the functionality for schools or LA's

    ASPEN could conceivably be used as an all UK system; it's that feature rich

    The only downside that I could find was the interface is very standard looking - hence that question about whether it could be customised, but if this is going to be redesigned in the next year this may make it virtually perfect

    My current score is 9 out of 10, with the interface losing 1 point

    The best interface I've seem by a county mile is Bromcom - so you may want to have a peek at that Graham - it is such a wonderfully pleasant experience to look at
    Very kind words Neil thank you. The interface is a touchy subject with the people in the development office, with a 50/50 split on form over function! I have my own personal feelings... that is for another time. The interface changes are quite striking (I have seen the concept designs ). What we have to remember is this is part MIS, part CRM type system, and we are with these changes going to strike the right balance. Will we have pretty icons left right and centre, a little picture of a Microsoft MSN Messenger Man to signify the pupil database.... probably not, but some of the new interface flexibility features really are great (gave me floppy-jaw!!!). I wish I could say more on that at this stage...

    The one thing on this though is it is the skin, the colours and overall framework that is the 'topic of conversation' lets say. Pages which is prevalent throughout Aspen is completely customisable and there you can have pretty pictures/colours and themes and the likes, in fact we have schools who have taken that on with some stunning results.

    I am being flippant about the icons and pictures, it is a common feedback point I get when talking to schools and LAs


    Edit: I have not seen the bromcom screen... anyone care to send over a screenshot?
    Last edited by GREED; 10th October 2012 at 03:45 PM.

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