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MIS Systems Thread, SIMS ZIS Agent in Technical; Originally Posted by Ian_ICTDS Penfold, I donít think you daisy chain ZIS together as such. I think you would have ...
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ian_ICTDS View Post
    Penfold,

    I donít think you daisy chain ZIS together as such. I think you would have some sort of software in between. Say the DCSF had a ZIS. The LA would have some kind of MIS software that is registered with that ZIS. This software would also be registered with the LA ZIS. Schools MIS would be registered with the LA ZIS. So a message would go from School MIS to LA ZIS, LA ZIS to LA MIS, LA MIS to DCSF ZIS and vice versa. At least this is the impression Iíve got from the reading Iíve done.

    Ian.
    I thought it might be slightly different.

    MIS <-> MIS Agent <-> School ZIS <-> ZIS2ZIS Agent <-> LA ZIS <-> ZIS2ZIS Agent <-> DCFS ZIS

    Is the above possible?

    This would allow integration with other systems at every level of the chain and every schools would have have data for only the students they teach.

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    More on Zones

    I think everyone is bringing up very good points and I've always agreed with Phil's concerns about maintaining learner privacy - it is not an option.

    On Phil's comment about our introduction of protections in the ZIS - this is what he was referring to...
    ---
    Over the past year, we introduced a feature we called "element-level filtering" and all of the other ZIS suppliers that sell in the UK have also adopted this. In the new version of the UK SIF standard being adopted (probably in September), element filtering will be part of the standard. This allows an administrator to have filtering control down to the element level for each endpoint. So, as of today, it can be considered universal.
    ---
    On the ZIS to ZIS connection question: the specification does not allow this. We've been able to get around this and they're introducing "web services" in the next version of SIF which is probably what you were looking for.
    ---

    ...back to the original subject

    Privacy is critical, but we need to think of the concerns and conformance to the requirements of the Data Protection Act in several areas:

    1. Between applications running in the same school - "departments" as referred to in the DPA
    2. Between schools that might be in a partnership (consortium) or special education type arrangement - peers at the same level
    3. Between different levels (schools and local authorities, or local authorities and the DCSF and so on)




    This is one of the reasons why we created the "virtual zones" concept - so that the virtual zone could be assigned a set of privacy rules that is appropriate for the community connected to it. This allows default privacy rules for any data that is leaving a school, for example, so that only a particular set of fields may leave. I believe this parallels how things are defined in regulations in general. This also extends to virtual zones created for managing other groups of schools for other purposes.

    Side note: "Managed Virtual Zones" is not outside the bounds of SIF, but uses standard UK 1.1 SIF arranged in a non-traditional (but within the standard) way. If the certification program were active, it would pass (we have certified dozens of agents in the US with the same software). It just requires that you forget about what you've been told is "the only way to set up a SIF infrastructure" :-)

  3. 2 Thanks to rchutch:

    GrumbleDook (23rd July 2009), Ian_ICTDS (23rd July 2009)

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    Thanks for the info.

    Quote Originally Posted by rchutch View Post
    This is one of the reasons why we created the "virtual zones" concept - so that the virtual zone could be assigned a set of privacy rules that is appropriate for the community connected to it. This allows default privacy rules for any data that is leaving a school, for example, so that only a particular set of fields may leave. I believe this parallels how things are defined in regulations in general. This also extends to virtual zones created for managing other groups of schools for other purposes.
    What would happen in this situation? Say the school has a privacy agreement with the LA that allows X, Y and Z to be transferred to the LA system. Then the LA have a privacy agreement with a third party that allows X, Y and Z to pass from LA system to third party. If the school donít want Z going to the third party how do they stop it?

    Sorry for the continuing questions, Iím just trying to get the picture clear in my head.

    Ian.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ian_ICTDS View Post
    Thanks for the info.

    What would happen in this situation? Say the school has a privacy agreement with the LA that allows X, Y and Z to be transferred to the LA system. Then the LA have a privacy agreement with a third party that allows X, Y and Z to pass from LA system to third party. If the school donít want Z going to the third party how do they stop it?

    Sorry for the continuing questions, Iím just trying to get the picture clear in my head.

    Ian.
    AFAIK the school can't unless it can be restricted under the DPA, as effectively all LA maintained schools come under the legal identity of the LA.

    There is also the issues of connexions as they are legally responsible for the students education/workplace transition until they are 25.

    If the LA had an agreement with a third party they will share data, the only obligation is inform the parents.

  6. Thanks to penfold_99 from:

    Ian_ICTDS (24th July 2009)

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    Virtual Zone Privacy

    Perhaps an example might help explain.

    You would still need a ZIS if you used managed virtual zones. Say, you had a logical grouping of schools and you needed to share data between them because, for example, they are all feeder schools for a common special education school who needs data from all of them. This school should get some learner information, but it doesn't need everything.

    These schools are all in an RBC that is supporting a Virtual Zone Manager (VZM) (it must be implemented at the LA level or higher for it to make any sense). (Think of the VZM as a huge agent) A Virtual Zone is created for that Special Education School in the ZIS. The VZM becomes the provider in that zone (on behalf of all those schools) and the Special Education application is the subscriber (it can publish as well; I am simplifying things for this explanation to try to make it a bit easier to understand).

    The VZM administrator can now set up privacy settings for the virtual zone which will now blanket all the schools that it virtualizes. This is done for a few reasons:

    1) It makes sure that the admin doesn't make any mistakes administering many endpoints individually
    2) it is much more convenient and easier to audit
    3) the one MIS can have several sets of permissions, depending on the virtual zone it is addressing

    In addition to this, the MIS still has all the original control it always had when it first publishes its data. It can choose to filter elements out and elements can still be filtered individually before they reach applications in the same zone.

    Wow - this is a real hard one to describe with just words I hope this perhaps has made things go in the "better than it was before" direction.

  8. Thanks to rchutch from:

    Ian_ICTDS (24th July 2009)

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    Moodle SIF Agent

    A few of you asked about the Moodle SIF agent - I put a quick description of it and a rough overview of how it works at Moodle SIF Agent | The SIF Place. As time permits, I'll add in more detail about how it works.

    Thanks,
    Rob

    Good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.
    - Will Rogers

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    Quote Originally Posted by rchutch View Post
    A few of you asked about the Moodle SIF agent - I put a quick description of it and a rough overview of how it works at Moodle SIF Agent | The SIF Place.
    Right, I think I've finally caught up and read the whole of this thread. So, can I go and download OpenZIS (or TinyZIS?), install it on an Ubuntu VM, then connect up Moodle and SIMS SIF agents? Can I use the Moodle SIF agent above on OpenZIS? Is there a SIF agent available for SIMS/OpenZIS (even if data is read-only from SIMS)? If not, do we write one, using the OpenSADK toolkit? Is there a SIF agent available for ScholarPack/OpenZIS?

    --
    David Hicks

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    moodle - i guess this should move to a new thread

    Well, theoretically, yes with the following exceptions:

    • I do not believe Capita has released a general-purpose SIMS SIF agent at this time, although there are alternative methods availeble for getting the events created
    • Someone has mentioned to me that having a Ubuntu-based Moodle point to a SQL-based database (as I describe) has some problems, but he proposed a solution if our agent could support web services and it easily can (so that issue could be easily resolved)
    • As far as hooking up to the Open/ZIS, theoretically it should be able to, although we have never tried to, nor have we heard of anyone trying to run that ZIS through the SIFA certification test suite. Personally, I would not want to get involved in an implementation where the agents and the ZIS hadn't gone through the certification test harness first (In the US where a certification program is available, we usually require that agents and ZIS are certified).


    (climbing up onto soap box)...

    Writing a SIF agent from scratch is no small effort (and I'm not trying to scare anyone). Many people I speak with seem to think that "all I need to do is stuff the data in XML messages and throw them at the ZIS" or perhaps slightly little more than that. (not that any of the readers here would think this way) That part is about 5% of what a SIF agent needs to do.

    I don't want this to sound like I'm speaking down to anyone - all I'm doing is passing along what we went through in hopes it might help others who want to take a similar route. I remember back to when we did our first SIF agent - when we thought we were about 90% done, we were (in reality) about 20% done.

    Once the SIF certification program becomes finalized, schools, LAs, etc., will almost certainly require SIF certification for anything they install (ZISs and agents) (at least that's what happened in the US).

    The difference between a SIF agent/ZIS that can "get by" and a "Certifiable SIF agent/ZIS" or, even better yet "Certified SIF Agent/ZIS" is often quite a long distance.

    Oh, well, time to get down from my soap box...

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    Quote Originally Posted by penfold_99 View Post
    Will it integrate with OpenZIS? and what is the cost?

    We haven't tried the Groupcall SIMS SIF Agent with OpenZIS, but see no reason why it wouldnt work as long as the OpenZIS conforms to the standards. Our agent has been tested again Edustructures, CPSI and Visual Software.

    I dont actually agree that ZIS's are an expensive option to purchase and maintain, the marketplace in the UK is evolving and hence the costs are getting much more competitive. I would argue that using open source in this type of situation could compromise security. Use of commercial products, when they are sensibly priced is surely the way to go.

    In terms of costs for our agent, please contact me directly.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ian_ICTDS View Post
    Gan the GroupCall agent read and write into SIMS do you know?
    Yes, the Groupcall agent supports read and writeback to SIMS. The write objects supported relate to core information and attendance at the moment.

  14. Thanks to LawrenceRoyston from:

    Ian_ICTDS (28th July 2009)

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    Quote Originally Posted by LawrenceRoyston View Post
    Yes, the Groupcall agent supports read and writeback to SIMS. The write objects supported relate to core information and attendance at the moment.
    Wow! Interesting. I feel a plan coming on.

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    Writing a certifiable agent looks like a very large task, and getting one certified looks like an expensive one...

    I'll have a read of the SIF spec in my copious free time, but it may be a feasible task and provide the chimeric open interface we keep discussing!

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    Certifying a SIF Agent

    Yes, it is a large task (we've certified about 30 or so agents in the US and re-tested several when new versions of the spec came out).

    Typically, the certification process is typically much more difficult for providers than it is for subscribers because your agent is sent a bunch (usually hundreds) of requests and it has to respond correctly to each of them. My guess is that since these requests are generated randomly, they may not represent typical types of things that you normally might expect, so you need to make sure your agent handles every possible case perfectly. For example, I believe I remember getting a request for something like:

    Request for all the "listed status" ONLY flag values for all the emergency phone numbers for all learners with a "GiftedTalented" flag = "Yes" AND "HispanicLatino" flag = "Yes". It didn't want to see the phone numbers, just the "listed status" and no other information for the learner. Your agent should know, however, that it should send back the mandatory fields in that object, or you will fail the test :-)

    My guess is that typically you wouldn't get requests like that in the real world, but (looking on the bright side) once you get your code correct for those, you should be pretty well set for anything that may come at you.

    For subscribers, you need to be able to properly accept what the test harness gives your agent (events), properly say "thank you" (stuff in section 4 of the specification) and do what is in the next paragraph (below). You should also send requests for objects and handle the responses correctly.

    The other tricky part (at least for us was/) is getting all the security models correct. SIF supports many security models and a good SIF agent will support most or all of them (ours supports everything except "HTTPS with no encryption" (I wonder why that even exists?)).

    Even after certification, does it mean that your agent will always work with every other agent and every ZIS? No, but the certification process gets you a whole lot closer.

    Thanks,
    Rob

  18. Thanks to rchutch from:

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ian_ICTDS View Post
    Hi,

    There is defiantly not a SIF agent for SIMS .net yet. Partnership Exchange uses an enhanced version of SIF so any agents it uses would not work with any other ZIS.

    Iím sure Capita will make one once SIF is given a definite green light. Iíve not heard any dates from Capita but another of our providers has said 12 months at the earliest before they make a SIF agent for their software because the future of SIF is still unclear.

    At the moment Partnership Exchange is the best solution available for distributing data around sites particularly for the 14-19 agenda. Iíve not seen the web interface yet but that would just seal the deal. In my opinion itís well worth the cost.

    Ian.

    Just a note, there are credible alternatives to Capita and Partnership Xchange. Perspective (Perspective Limited : Learning Management Systems, 14-19 Diplomas, Apprenticeships, Work Based Learning) offers a SIF enabled web based 14-19 solution, Collaborative Learning Manager. Perspective are working with Group Call and Link2 ICT to deliver an integrated SIF solution in Birmingham which links all delivery partners including colleges and work based learning providers.

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    My original post (above) was probably a little too definitive. I should say that itís my opinion that Partnership Exchange is the best solution and not a statement of fact.

    Iíve not looked to closely at Perspective myself so I canít comment if Partnership Exchange is better or not. If Perspective can get into a position of proper integration with SIMS (through SIF or whatever else) then Iíll be interested in having a closer look.

    Ian.

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