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MIS Systems Thread, Do I need a MIS? in Technical; Hi all, new to the site and have a question that I hope someone can answer. I manage a program ...
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    Do I need a MIS?

    Hi all, new to the site and have a question that I hope someone can answer.

    I manage a program (part of a non-profit) that donates refurbished computers to K-12 students in need. This year, we have branched off to creating computer labs in various youth-serving organizations throughout the school district. While our main focus in past years has been just getting the computers into the hands of students in need, we are now putting an intense focus on training the students on how to use computers, internet, educational/school resources, etc.

    We plan to have 20 labs open by Dec 2014... we have 6 open now and the next step is to get these training programs implemented. Because we are a non-profit, we need measurable goals and outcomes to report back to our donors. We plan to measure student success by tracking increased time spent on digital learning activities (we're using a web-based educational program that measures the time students spend on it automatically) and improvement in digital literacy skills (we'll track this by giving a web-based digital literacy certificate test pre- and post- training). So there are small systems already in place to track the individual students but once we have 20 labs open, it's going to be difficult to monitor. I've been told that an MIS could be really helpful for this. Each lab will have a "Lab Manager" as well as a few trainers... ideally we'd like them to report student progress/results monthly. I think it'd be best if it was web-based so each lab manager could just log in and enter their data- then I can just login and pull whatever info I need whenever I need it. I apologize for the wordiness of this post and I hope it makes sense- ha!

    Any input would be appreciated. Would Excel spreadsheets be easier? Is there a free (or low-cost) web-based program that you think might be a good fit for this? Is MIS even relevant to this? Thank you in advance!

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    twin--turbo's Avatar
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    IMS/MIS is only as good as the data inputed and the ability to tailor the outputed data ( where a MIS should shine above a IMS )

    you need to understand what data you need to store and report on.

    My suspiscion is that a well crafted set of either Excel Sheets or an Access database will do the job.

    What exactly do you need to input and get out?

    Rob

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    elsiegee40's Avatar
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    Hello and welcome

    The problem that you have is producing measurable targets... once you have something that is measurable, the recording method will probably be obvious. You would do well to talk to the schools in your district as your targets should be the same as theirs!

    For example, I am governor of a British school where 60% of students enter with a reading age below their chronological age... all targets for these students are measured against their improved literacy skills. Simply providing them with computers is not enough; we have to show that all the strategies used combine to improve progress and attainment for the student. Googling Pupil Premium within the UK will give you a feel; British schools use this money to raise attainment and progress of "vulnerable groups" and have to justify the spend just like you do.

    A MIS could well be overkill given that you are only a small portion of the students' educational assistance. You can probably do your stats in excel... but it might be simpler to ask the schools how the students that you support progress when compared with those that you don't.

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    Quote Originally Posted by twin--turbo View Post
    IMS/MIS is only as good as the data inputed and the ability to tailor the outputed data ( where a MIS should shine above a IMS )

    you need to understand what data you need to store and report on.

    My suspiscion is that a well crafted set of either Excel Sheets or an Access database will do the job.

    What exactly do you need to input and get out?

    Rob
    We have to report quarterly on the impact the training program is making on students' participation (through the time spent on the digital learning activities) and digital literacy skills. We're also going to have the individual lab sites track the affect the training has on the students' academic achievement (whether it be through advancing to the next grade level, attendance, etc).

    The training will last about 30 weeks and we'll need to collect student usage reports and digital literacy test scores periodically throughout that time period to make sure our training program is actually helping the students. I think an Excel spreadsheet "system" is probably a safe bet but I wanted to make sure there wasn't some magical program out there where the lab manager could input each students' monthly results and spit out statistics of how it's benefiting them I'm still learning about all the IT stuff that goes into my job (it's actually my favorite part of it!) so I do appreciate your help!
    Last edited by texcellence; 26th December 2013 at 10:00 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by elsiegee40 View Post
    Hello and welcome

    The problem that you have is producing measurable targets... once you have something that is measurable, the recording method will probably be obvious. You would do well to talk to the schools in your district as your targets should be the same as theirs!

    For example, I am governor of a British school where 60% of students enter with a reading age below their chronological age... all targets for these students are measured against their improved literacy skills. Simply providing them with computers is not enough; we have to show that all the strategies used combine to improve progress and attainment for the student. Googling Pupil Premium within the UK will give you a feel; British schools use this money to raise attainment and progress of "vulnerable groups" and have to justify the spend just like you do.

    A MIS could well be overkill given that you are only a small portion of the students' educational assistance. You can probably do your stats in excel... but it might be simpler to ask the schools how the students that you support progress when compared with those that you don't.
    Thank you for your reply! I am hoping to meet with one of the school districts "database" whiz's and I hope I can gain some insight into how they record and measure their data.

    This is verbatim from our program's goals... maybe it will shed a little light that I left out of my original post:
    1. Improvement in Digital Literacy Skills: 75% of students who begin Microsoft Digital Literacy Curriculum will attain passing scores and certificates of completion. Trainers will facilitate the training and track progress of a representative sample of students.


    2. Time spent on digital learning activities: Students participating in the labs will increase the number of hours using technology resources for homework, self-directed learning, and scholastic research by 50%. Usage reports generated from PowerMyLearning and pre- and post-surveys will be conducted to assess the change.


    3. Student achievement: 90% of students participating in labs with after-school programs during the 2013-14 school year will be promoted to the next grade level. Partners track student performance in their programs and will provide a report at the end of the year.

    Again, thank you for your reply!

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    twin--turbo's Avatar
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    By the sound of it you need simply to record the information for presentation, a production MIS will do this but be so massivly over the top that it would be worth less than a spreadsheet.

    The BIGGY these days for schools is predective data, I am unsure that the releveance to you would be that strong though at the moment. But being able to model expected progress will probably follow yuor primary goals soon.


    Rob

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    Your first ad third targets look measurabke, but I have my doubts about the second. Increasing the amount of time spent using the equipment proves nothing. How will you know how much time they are soending, what they aredoing while they are using it and whether what they are doing is helpful?

    I can guarantee use of YouTube, Facebook, or proxies will increase unless you have outstanding filtering!

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    Quote Originally Posted by elsiegee40 View Post
    Your first ad third targets look measurabke, but I have my doubts about the second. Increasing the amount of time spent using the equipment proves nothing. How will you know how much time they are soending, what they aredoing while they are using it and whether what they are doing is helpful?

    I can guarantee use of YouTube, Facebook, or proxies will increase unless you have outstanding filtering!
    The training sessions will be about 1-2 hours at a time and there will be several trainers monitoring their usage. We're planning to first give the students a pre-survey asking about their usage for educational related activities on the computer and then we're having the lab trainers help them create an account on this web-based program that tracks the amount of time they spend on it and what activities they complete. We're definitely putting a lot of trust in them but we don't have the resources to do anything more "official". We're really just measuring the time increased on this specific learning website... for now at least!

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    It sounds like you'd benefit more from a VLE, which these days have a lot of cross-over with an MIS.

    Many VLEs will have built-in systems for recording / assessing data. They are usually fed the pupil info from an MIS, but it doesn't have to be that way.
    I don't see that PowerMyLearning has these advanced features, but it might be worth talking to other schools on their network to see how they use it and assess its usage.

    A lot of people find that an MIS doesn't do the analysis that they want and take data out to Excel anyway. There are a number of third party add-ons / services that will take data out of an MIS and analyse it for you, and perhaps something like that might be better for you. Again talking to other schools will help. It's a shame you can't get more useful info out of the website.

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    Quote Originally Posted by vikpaw View Post
    It sounds like you'd benefit more from a VLE, which these days have a lot of cross-over with an MIS.

    Many VLEs will have built-in systems for recording / assessing data. They are usually fed the pupil info from an MIS, but it doesn't have to be that way.
    I don't see that PowerMyLearning has these advanced features, but it might be worth talking to other schools on their network to see how they use it and assess its usage.

    A lot of people find that an MIS doesn't do the analysis that they want and take data out to Excel anyway. There are a number of third party add-ons / services that will take data out of an MIS and analyse it for you, and perhaps something like that might be better for you. Again talking to other schools will help. It's a shame you can't get more useful info out of the website.
    I will definitely look into this and also speak with some of the district schools.

    Thank you all again for your warm welcome and responses!

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    Ephelyon's Avatar
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    The Provision Map Writer product from Blue Hills Software is the kind of thing I'd recommend if you were in England and it was a programme that existed within a school or a school federation. It's usually used for things like monitoring the SEN provision and justifying the Pupil Premium spend over here, but there could be something like it out there that's more specific to what you want (and your location).

    For info:

    Provision Mapping - Inclusive Education – Blue Hills

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