Twitter and Facebook are a different ball game - they have endless 3rd party applications interacting with them .. a school MIS on the other hand..not so much (if the MIS does all of the functionality). I see where you're coming from though.Every single client application will have to rewrite their database interaction code. With ORM, you have a buffer - and as a provider you're able to change the database as much as you wish without affecting the clients.
Imagine if twitter required all its clients to change the way they work fundamentally every time they made any changes? Or facebook? It just wouldn't work. ORM isn't a choice, it is a necessity plain and simple if you want to allow more than 1 client application to connect.
So, library systems, cashless catering systems, information display screens, achievement tracking systems, parent reporting systems etc... aren't endless but there are an increasing number of them. Just because the number is smaller than Twitter has, doesn't mean you shoudn't design things so they work well without changes.Twitter and Facebook are a different ball game - they have endless 3rd party applications interacting with them .. a school MIS on the other hand..not so much (if the MIS does all of the functionality). I see where you're coming from though.
I'd weigh in with localzuk here. Abstraction of the database layer is a good thing on any non-trivial system for easing the maintenance burden, offering flexibility, and reducing the burden of integration with other systems. Not only that but you can also do stronger verification of data integrity, and implement AAA so you have better control over the data.
To give an example where an API can increase flexibility, some functions are already well handled by existing tools. Let us consider scanned letters, or policy documents that staff need to agree to periodically (VDU survey, AUP). Using an API the MIS front end could seamlessly request a document (from Alfresco, Sharepoint, or a regular file system) along with the record of who has agreed to the policy (from the MIS database or even a custom table).
Personally, being able to pull names, pictures and so forth into OpenLDAP would be nice, so network/vle users could be created as a side effect of normal admin processes and disabled/removed automatically when they leave the school.
A common point raised about now in these discussions is "government sponsored competition with the private sector = BAD". Any company who says this cannot think much of their product, if they think a young upstart could compete. However this is not competition, as there is nothing to stop anyone (including the incumbent MIS providers) from downloading the OSS source code, improving it and selling it for as much as they wanted. They are, of course, required to return the favour on the free development they benefit from by releasing the changes. A better position for an incumbent who could not compete using their existing product would be to provide support, and paid for customisations for the OSS product (either look and feel, or new modules that would then be pushed upstream).
Pretty much anything you can think of has been done. Authentication, photocopiers that scan straight into SIMS, door entry that takes the registers when they enter the room, cashless catering, SIF agents, bulk import\export, VLE import\export stuff, timetable import\export... the list goes on, but basically can fill up most of the SIMS database via 3rd parties. You can't do much with System Manager (which makes sense) and FMS, pretty much the only limits. Not sure about Exams\Options however.
I doubt Capita would give a full list, unless someone paid them, but a ones that have:
(Also note some don't want to be listed)
Last edited by matt40k; 3rd November 2010 at 08:23 AM. Reason: Spell check
tmcd35 (3rd November 2010)
Anyway, I don't know why I'm the only one holding up the torch for RDMS here - all of the main MIS providers use them. Maybe Phil and I could agree on this one ?
A good MIS would do half of those, but if you really wanted to allow 3rd party developers to bolt on, why not use web services for the required data and a) save yourself a shedload of hassle with an unnecessary ORM and b) control the data 3rd parties have access to more easilySo, library systems, cashless catering systems, information display screens, achievement tracking systems, parent reporting systems etc... aren't endless but there are an increasing number of them. Just because the number is smaller than Twitter has, doesn't mean you shoudn't design things so they work well without changes.
Last edited by scholarpack; 3rd November 2010 at 10:31 AM.
And no, a good MIS won't do half of those. A good MIS will do what it is designed to do, and allow all the other systems to connect in and get the bits of data they want. I don't want our MIS doing library management. I don't want it dealing with our kitchen. It is there to manage pupil data.
An MIS should only handle pupil data? What about staff, accounting, etc and all of the other supporting areas.
The last two I have no doubt should be an integral part of any school MIS. The others, well it could be done/has been done and I'm sure most would rather have it integrated instead of separate software with different interfaces and 10 different supporting companies.library systems, cashless catering systems, information display screens, achievement tracking systems, parent reporting systems
By all means if this new MIS supplier wants to integrate all these systems, do it, but give us the option not to use the system that the MIS supplier has provided, give us the option to use third party systems.
The idea of squashing everything a school does into one system is bizarre to me. Why not go further? Why not have the MIS also be the network directory server, what about using it as a file store server too? The same idea is used in teaching. We used to have teachers doing admin work, teaching, clubs etc... Now, it has been recognised that having one person do everything is akin to putting all your eggs in one basket.
Trying to do everything in one system is a silly idea to me, you end up doing 1000 things badly, rather than 10 things excellently. Let people specialising in the specific areas deal with them.
See, there's the thing - by integrating those sort of things into the system you end up limiting the school to the functionality that the system can provide. We don't use achievement tracking in SIMS.net because it can't handle the way we deal with merits and the like in school. Sure, we put behaviour notices in there, but only because it mimics the old behaviour system we had. If it didn't, you can be sure we wouldn't be using it.The last two I have no doubt should be an integral part of any school MIS. The others, well it could be done/has been done and I'm sure most would rather have it integrated instead of separate software with different interfaces and 10 different supporting companies.
The idea of monolithic systems went out, in the business world, with mainframes and AS400s etc... Instead, smaller, interacting systems are in use now, as it is much simpler to change them, and keep them relevant to the business.
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