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MIS Systems Thread, Newbie trying to get data out of SIMS in Technical; Hi, folks. Thanks for reading - please be patient with the gallons of ignorance that drench this post: I've no ...
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    Newbie trying to get data out of SIMS

    Hi, folks. Thanks for reading - please be patient with the gallons of ignorance that drench this post: I've no knowledge of SIMS except that it uses a SQL server back end and we use it at our secondary school.

    I'm a governor and I'm working with the DHT on a project to get homework and detention data (initially) entered into SIMS and be able to report on it - ideally by individual email. From my limited understanding of the product, we'd need to have the "Learning Gateway" module installed, which we simply can't afford, hence this little project.

    Is it possible to record homework data for a class on the core product (I found detentions, not homework, on the website), and then extract it per student using a self-developed app or by stripping the data from a report? I gather that Capita are secretive about their data structure, so trying to find the data by looking in the tables is going to be difficult. Add to that their habit of moving things around, it's likely the report option is the only option - but if the fields aren't available I'll need to think of another method.

    Thanks again for any insight you might be able to offer.

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    LosOjos's Avatar
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    Hi Gorf,

    I recommend you (or whoever will be developing the system) gets to grips with reporting using SIMS built in report designer and also how to extract data using those reports and Command Reporter; a free commad line utility that resides in the SIMS .net installation folder and allows you to run reports.

    Here are a few threads to get you started:
    SIMS.net Reporting
    executing CommandReporter from scripts
    Command Reporter and Filtering Reports
    CLR /Params String

    As for recording homework data, there are a couple of ways you could do it. You could either get staff to log homework info in the Behaviour module by creating a category for homework, or you could set up some templates in Assessment Manager that allow staff to enter any data you require.

    It's hard to give specific advice as if you don't really use SIMS, anything I say is going to sound Dutch

    Is your DHT more familiar with SIMS? You're really going to struggle to develop this system unless you have someone who knows their way around SIMS to help; does your school have a Data Manager?

  3. 2 Thanks to LosOjos:

    Gorf (22nd October 2013), mark80 (28th October 2013)

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    We haven't got the bit that allows you to record homework and feed it through to SLG, but we do have Lesson Monitor, so have cheated by recording homework as an achievement with a zero-point tariff.
    Defining a report that lists all homework set then becomes a matter of tweaking one of the standard ones for achievements.
    Of course, if you want to use those reports for their original purpose as well, you have to remember to tweak them to remove homework.

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    Gorf (22nd October 2013)

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    CaterinaAnna's Avatar
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    I was typing at the same time as Los Ojos, so apologies for the repetition.

    I've never used command line reporting however - just the inbuilt report generator.
    It has its limitations, so the option of doing more is intriguing.
    However, Los Ojos, when I look at those links they're referring to things that are past my starting point: I wouldn't know how to begin.
    Where would be a good place for someone who knows the report generator, but not a lot else, to go to get started with getting more out?

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    LosOjos's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CaterinaAnna View Post
    I was typing at the same time as Los Ojos, so apologies for the repetition.

    I've never used command line reporting however - just the inbuilt report generator.
    It has its limitations, so the option of doing more is intriguing.
    However, Los Ojos, when I look at those links they're referring to things that are past my starting point: I wouldn't know how to begin.
    Where would be a good place for someone who knows the report generator, but not a lot else, to go to get started with getting more out?
    Hi @CaterinaAnna - that's a tough question! Command Reporter itself simply runs an existing SIMS report and saves the output where you tell it to; in and of itself, it can't do any more than you can do yourself with SIMS reports (as it relies solely on SIMS reports to function). Where CR becomes useful however is when you need to extract data from SIMS on a regular basis, whether that be to update a spreadsheet on a staff share automatically every night or to feed data in to another system so you can do what you want with it there.

    How to move from there to creating something that SIMS alone cannot really depends on what you hope to achieve, what your current skillset is and how much time you're willing to invest. Personally, I've always been interested in coding so over the years I've learnt a variety of languages so that I'm now at a point that I'm fairly comfortable coding in any language (given a bit of time to work out it's particular structure).

    If you don't have any experience coding, you have to ask yourself if it's worth you learning to code? (Personally I can't see why anyone wouldn't want to, but then it's always interested me )

    If you are interested in learning to code, Learn to code | Codecademy is a great place to start. Python is an extremely popular language at the moment, maybe you could try that?

    If that all sounds too much or doesn't interest you, another, quicker (though less flexible) approach is to start developing in Access. Pull data you need in to tables in Access and then do what you like with it there - you'll find you have much more freedom to manipulate data there than using SIMS reports alone.

    Sorry to be so vague but it really does all depend what you hope to achieve as to where best to focus your efforts

  8. 2 Thanks to LosOjos:

    CaterinaAnna (22nd October 2013), Gorf (22nd October 2013)

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    Many thanks for the replies - yep, the DHT is a bit of a whiz in SIMS and regularly runs of reports to Excel for further analysis. I'm just aware that he'll endeavour to get a solution in place even though he's got a lot on his plate already: I was trying to get a feel for how much work is involved, mainly to see if the end justifies the effort; and I've got plenty of further reading to help with that.

    Thanks again.

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    Hi Gorf

    Just a kinda of gotcha if your doing SIMS -> Excel reporting. SIMS outputs into an XML format, which is fine for basic data manipulation however if you do advance stuff like conditional formatting you might hit problems. Save the output into standard excel format and you'll have no problems.

    I've had to manually hack out the conditional of 5 large reports that SLT have happily spent hours putting together and then found they couldnt open it after!

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    Thanks for the comprehensive reply.

    I wasn't really after anything that long or involved, because the starting point was even further back than that: I'd no idea how to access CommandReporter, let alone start using it, and I suspected the same might be true for Gorf. But that's probably because I jumped straight to the links and ignored your first two lines

    Given the uses you've suggested, it sounds like it is something I should investigate. I tend to pull the data into Excel and can usually beat it into submission there with the help of a little self-taught (and therefore probably very messy) VBA, so officially I know nothing about coding - although that hasn't stopped me editing what's between tags in the odd xml file. Coincidentally I was looking at online Python courses the other day, but I'd rather jump straight in and learn what I need to make things work - I'm less likely to get side-tracked down interesting blind alleys that way.

    Thanks again

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    Quote Originally Posted by CamelMan View Post
    Hi Gorf

    Just a kinda of gotcha if your doing SIMS -> Excel reporting. SIMS outputs into an XML format, which is fine for basic data manipulation however if you do advance stuff like conditional formatting you might hit problems. Save the output into standard excel format and you'll have no problems.

    I've had to manually hack out the conditional of 5 large reports that SLT have happily spent hours putting together and then found they couldnt open it after!
    You can specify the file type at run time for any report, this can be disabled by the report designer in SIMS but from CR it's as simple as setting the file extension to XML/XLS/CSV

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    Quote Originally Posted by CamelMan View Post
    Just a kinda of gotcha if your doing SIMS -> Excel reporting. SIMS outputs into an XML format, which is fine for basic data manipulation however if you do advance stuff like conditional formatting you might hit problems. Save the output into standard excel format and you'll have no problems.
    I think the way the DHT does his Excel reports is to output the bare minimum as a flat file and then reference that data from his all-singing XLS sheet. I'll ask him later this afternoon (I'm also going to direct him to this forum).

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gorf View Post
    Hi, folks. Thanks for reading - please be patient with the gallons of ignorance that drench this post: I've no knowledge of SIMS except that it uses a SQL server back end and we use it at our secondary school.

    I'm a governor and I'm working with the DHT on a project to get homework and detention data (initially) entered into SIMS and be able to report on it - ideally by individual email. From my limited understanding of the product, we'd need to have the "Learning Gateway" module installed, which we simply can't afford, hence this little project.

    Is it possible to record homework data for a class on the core product (I found detentions, not homework, on the website), and then extract it per student using a self-developed app or by stripping the data from a report? I gather that Capita are secretive about their data structure, so trying to find the data by looking in the tables is going to be difficult. Add to that their habit of moving things around, it's likely the report option is the only option - but if the fields aren't available I'll need to think of another method.

    Thanks again for any insight you might be able to offer.
    I have to ask, why do you want homework data kept in SIMS.net? It would be better suited being in a Learning platform where both staff and student can review it.

    What are you trying to report on? If homework has been completed or what mark the student achieved?

    Assessment Manager is flexible enough to store data and pretty straight forward to get data out using command reporter.

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    Quote Originally Posted by penfold_99 View Post
    I have to ask, why do you want homework data kept in SIMS.net?
    I'm just going off what I've been told - as far as I can tell, SIMS is already set up and has a regular user-base among the teachers. The tradeoff we are accepting in order to promote homework logging is that we will remove the current requirement to log attendance on a per-lesson basis. The idea there is that homework will be set less frequently, so even though it's a bit of typing it should actually reduce the workload (especially if they can copy/paste their homework plan).

    The eventual idea is to replace the need for parents to sign a student's homework book by emailing them a weekly summary of what's been set. At my meeting with the DHT yesterday, he was agreeable to the use of a zero-point score in the achievements. This would then be reported to a CSV and that data linked or copied to an Excel template which generates the emails.

    The fact that we're using an external script in the form of VBA suggests to me that the whole lot should be done outside of SIMS, but the DHT thinks it will get a better buy-in if the staff use a system they are already using.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gorf View Post
    The tradeoff we are accepting in order to promote homework logging is that we will remove the current requirement to log attendance on a per-lesson basis.
    That is one massive trade off. I will leave it as that as we could go massively off topic.

    Quote Originally Posted by Gorf View Post
    The eventual idea is to replace the need for parents to sign a student's homework book by emailing them a weekly summary of what's been set.
    There are services like https://www.showmyhomework.co.uk/ (other might be available, not sure) which will cater for what you needs. You can then send parents a generic email reminding them of the service.

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