CAM (10th November 2009)
The best way to enter grades and validate them is either to enter them using the SIMS client, or to enter them using SLG. The same thing applies to Profiles for comments.
All our grades and comments are entered using AM7 (I'm looking at using Profiles but we're trying to keep to a report-briefly-and-frequently model), and although the actual report generation takes place outside of SIMS, I rely heavily on the data validation mechanisms in SIMS to ensure that people enter meaningful stuff!
There are a couple of staff who go the exported marksheet route, but we try to discourage it, as it tends to make life more awkward, and moves the burden of entering a valid grade away from the person entering the grades (teacher) to someone else (admin staff).
There are ways to get data out of SIMS cleanly and efficiently; what I would say, though, is that it's hard to think of a situation where you wouldn't want staff to enter data directly into SIMS. If your reporting solution works, fair enough, stick with it: but it doesn't sound like it's perfect, and the whole issue of online reporting is disturbing. If the CSV exported needs manual editing before it can be used, this doesn't suggest that the online access will be all that rigidly secure! SLG looks good.
CAM (10th November 2009)
CAM, I completely concur with Matt ^. The best way to get data into SIMS is to encourage staff to do it straight into SIMS even if they produce it at home and copy paste it in at school as i suggested before. This is what we do here now, until i can get SLG set up.
My suggestions regarding exporting marksheets were just to answer your questions, but all those routes come with associated problems, mostly manual intervention by you (us as techs).
Sometimes we (IT techs) are at risk of over engineering the solution, maybe we just like a challenge or have very exacting standards, but often, the true solution is to say to staff, this is what you should be entering into the column, just these 3 grades, if you do it wrong, you correct it until it's right. You just have to be harsh, they are teachers after all and should understand that attitude.
[stands back and awaits abuse]
Thanks for all the replies, has given me some good ideas.
Looks like SLG and Profiles is definately the way to go.
We used Profiles for reporting last year. Generally staff were happy enough with it given that no-one likes change, and our previous (pull data out of SIMS, stick it in Access, generate Word documents, write reports, upload to access then generate report) system was excellent from a user's point of view (though not from a back-room point of view).
What staff didn't like about profiles was the lack of remote access (you can't stick it on a USB stick and take it home) and the fact that assessment info for the same report had to be recorded in an AM7 marksheet. This is better now that "tabbed browsing" has been introduced.
Our biggest sticking point was remote access. Several staff were very unhappy with having to cut and paste from a word document into profiles (disadvantage of moving away from a well established system that staff found easy), some claiming it took a very long time (I just don't get this - though some were struggling on with touch pads rather than using a proper mouse).
So we got involved with a pilot of SLG and tried using that. Because of hosting issues this was very problematic with some staff finding that they could not access SLG fully in the evening before a deadline, but there were also some odd glitches like the profiles edited on SLG coming into SIMS with the wrong font - this was not easy to sort out.
Our impressions from the pilot were that SLG did not give a very attractive or intuitive interface - good enough for staff to use, but not what we would hope for from a good online reporting solution. It may be that SLG can be moulded into a much more appealing system, but we just didn't get that far in this pilot.
We'll probably stick with profiles for this year, but we might be back to cut & paste. We're also looking at PARS + Connect + Insight, but we have a lot of stuff set up in SIMS - particularly AM7 that I don't want to have to set up afresh in PARS.
Last edited by Damian; 30th November 2009 at 05:55 PM.
This saves staff members from mouse clicks which are a pain when doing 30 kids. You also fill this and apply it to the whole column. A far better system than CMIS/eportal!
We also use AM7 for our reporting. This was to make the reports portable so we send out exported marksheets then once the data is in we produce reports which the staff edit. The ideal scenario would be all our Teachers remoting in and editing the comments on profiles but at the moment we have this.
It's not ideal as the reports are individual and I have written loads of VBA and VB script for collation and other purposes.
We use Profiles 7 for end-of-term reports. Our comment banks offer only blank comments for teachers to write as they wish. However, as they select the blank comment, the pupil's appropriate assessments are automatically pasted in from AM7. This avoids the need to flick to the Student Teacher View to check recent entries.
As we use Citrix (a terminal server system) we're fortunate in having remote access to the network through a portal from our web-site. This means teachers can log in from home and work exactly as they would at school, provided that (a) their broadband connection is good and (b) their home PC is not too geriatric!
Even so, a large number of teachers still write their comments in Word then copy and paste them into Profiles. The major problem with this is that they often forget to select the comment with the tick box and the assessments therefore do not pull through from AM7.
The final report document is designed separately in the Session Manager and the end-result looks neat and professional. I know there are a lot of users like Vik out there who doggedly stick with AM7 and good luck to them - if the clock ain't broken, don't fix it I say. But, if you're starting out from the point-of-view that AM7 is good for recording and managing assessments but you want something slicker for reporting, Profiles is the beast to harness!
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