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MIS Systems Thread, Alternative Reporting Tools in Technical; Does anyone have any ideas for alternative reporting tools I can present to management? Currently we have a homebrew system ...
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    CAM
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    Alternative Reporting Tools

    Does anyone have any ideas for alternative reporting tools I can present to management?

    Currently we have a homebrew system in place and it is a far from ideal solution for the following reasons:

    1) Data is exported from SIMS so it is immediately out of date and not live.
    2) Data has to be altered to a CSV file with specific column names and merged with more SIMS data before upload.
    3) After uploading, data held in the system such as teacher names has to be updated to correctly assign reports to staff.
    4) All these processes take a very long time due to intensive checking of the data and mistakes still fall through the cracks!
    5) The program has some major flaws making it difficult to use that I can't go into on here.

    I've already given the most ideal suggestion of Options and Learning Gateway to my manager, but the current system is free and hand-coded by our IT Director (who holds the SIMS budget instead of my boss). Showing a 4 figure price tag in a proposal will need a fair bit of work to achieve.

    What options have I got and how do I recommend alternatives before we are stuck with this for the 2010 reporting requirements? We were looking at doing reports in Assessment Manager (initially as a backup system due to reliability issues with the homebrew last half-term) but then teaching staff cannot do their reports at home.

    And guidance for putting proposals forward would help too please.

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    Oops_my_bad's Avatar
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    What about SIMS profiles? Should already be included with your SIMS licence I'd have thought?

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    CAM (5th November 2009)

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    We use SIMS profiles with the profiles webpart (at an additional cost).

    Gives the staff access to write the reports from home as well as pull in various other information from SIMS for the reports - Attendance and Assessment data.

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    CAM (5th November 2009)

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    CAM
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    Yeah got Options and Profiles mixed up.

    I thought you had to pay extra for the Profiles module?

    Oh and Sylv3r, is that webpart to do with SLG?

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    Quote Originally Posted by CAM View Post
    Yeah got Options and Profiles mixed up.

    I thought you had to pay extra for the Profiles module?

    Oh and Sylv3r, is that webpart to do with SLG?
    Yes its an additional cost to the the SIMS webparts with SLG.

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    CAM (5th November 2009)

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    Have you looked at i2Report?

    The school i used to work at purchased it about 4 years ago and is still using it.

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    CAM (5th November 2009)

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    You don't need an alternative system if you have AM7, Profiles7 and SLG
    Why would you want to look elsewhere?

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    Just throwing it out there, maybe I dont want SLG?

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    Then I would humbly suggest that you seriously consider that option!
    The Profiles7 Senior Manager Checking procedures should now be able from the Autumn Release as well!

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    CAM
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    So, to use Profiles it is already part of SIMS? I assume that since it is on our Focus menu but no-one has ever touched it. But, to get the staff to fill their reports in from home, we need to purchase SLG and a web-part (which, if I recall correctly, are the panels that appear in the Sharepoint site?). Then just add the web part for parental access and voila, 2010 reporting requirement nailed as well?

    For the record, we definately don't have SLG as the budget was insufficient when we last looked. Does anyone also know where I can see some sample Profiles reports? We need to put them together into an ALPS report sheet and require specific headings such as Performance, Attitude and Behaviour.
    Last edited by CAM; 5th November 2009 at 10:40 PM.

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    With Profiles7 it is difficult to give you an example without giving you a copy of an actual report. The Template shows virtually nothing. It is only in the pupil generated report that you will see how it is set up. You can have whatever sections you decide to have but these are controlled in the Comment Banks.
    I would suggest visiting a school in your area that is using Profiles7 to get a real flavour of what Profiles7 is capable of.
    If you raise it on SupportNet then I am sure you will get a couple of invites. If such a school also has SLG then so much the better.
    Last edited by Sivadam; 6th November 2009 at 07:18 AM.

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    CAM (6th November 2009)

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    Two observations - the SIMS Profile layout is determined by what you can design in Word. Most LAs have bought a licence that includes Profiles but its possible to have a licence for SIMS that does not include Profiles.

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    We use Assessment manager for reports, and that should be included in the licence.

    It's very efficient once set up, and with careful planning that's not too bad (there's another thread about this).

    The benefits of using SIMS are enormous if you weigh up the total cost of the solution compared to the export import fiasco you have going on. Sell it as a backup and once they've seen it, they'll want to use it all the time.

    It is not easily possible for staff to write reports at home, but there are workarounds. For one, you can export all the marksheets in bulk, the staff can enter comments and grades into these and then you can import them.

    Problems: the marksheets aren't a very good interface (Excel - XML), are difficult to edit, the data needs validating else it wont import.
    Benefits: quick, easy and they can formulate the data in Word or their own Excel files and paste into the marksheets after.

    The second option is for you to supply the staff with class lists, or they can provide their own. Write their reports how they want at home in word, excel, filemaker, or otherwise, and then come into school and copy paste the data live into SIMS. It really doesn't take long, once they get used to it.

    I've used both methods for years, and it's really great.

    Once you get the above working, and 'the' director and other management like the solution, you can sell them on SLG and then they can have remote access to the marksheets from home. As that's extra cost, and work to set it up, i'd say prove it working with the other method first.

    Assessment / reporting really is something that shouldn't be done outside of the main MIS.

    Profiles is good, and has some advantages, but I ( and a small band of renegades still prefer AM7).
    Last edited by vikpaw; 10th November 2009 at 04:34 AM. Reason: typo! :P

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    CAM (9th November 2009)

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    Ack! No way to include drop boxes in AM7 sheet exports? That's what is stopping us so far with AM7 as staff select from a strict criteria like Good, Above Expectations, etc.

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    Not that i know of CAM. We've used similar things in the past e.g. ME,WTE,EE (meeting expectations, working towards expectations, exceeding expectations) using a grade set, so it's strict.

    If you export the marksheets out, they have to use the correct code, as those and only those will be reimported.

    You could possibly add validation to the cells on the marksheet, but to do that you need to make the XML file an XLS type and then remove protection, Add in the validation, and hope you can rename the file and import it afterwards.

    It's definitely worth a try. I've frequently imported data from a spreadsheet by manually mapping columns to aspects, and i just Save As the file into XML format. The only thing you need to make sure is still in the file is the hidden rows at the top, that store the aspect mapping.

    Worst case you'd have to do as i do, and manually map the columns on data entry. If you are going to do that, make sure you export with admission number to allow SIMS to match the rows to students in the db. This is obviously a long process if you have lots of aspects.

    Surely you can beat the staff into being strict with their data entry. If you enter the correct data once, won't Excel autofill all future entry if you type the first letter. I think it still does that with XML files.

    At my old school, i just used to visually check each marksheet and do a find and replace if need be. It's still quicker than manual import if there are marksheets for every year, every subject.

  22. Thanks to vikpaw from:

    CAM (10th November 2009)

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