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MIS Systems Thread, Extracting data from an MIS in Technical; @CyberNerd: Yes, that would work... if you want to void your support contract The "SDK" recommended by PhilNeal is far ...
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    webman's Avatar
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    Re: Extracting data from an MIS

    @CyberNerd: Yes, that would work... if you want to void your support contract The "SDK" recommended by PhilNeal is far from adequate.

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    Re: Extracting data from an MIS

    You will be able to soon export from SIMS to import to LDAP automagically.

    I will post my code online soon, we just had to add some code for dynamic exchange storage groups in multiple hosted solutions.

    I'm hoping to finish up before xmas!

    If anyone is realllly hungry I can email them my work to date however it may require some tweaking to work!

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    Re: Extracting data from an MIS

    Quote Originally Posted by maniac
    Those using CMIS, I've got a PHP solution which works, and extracts data from CMIS into a mySQL table, where I can manipulate it to do virtually anything I need.

    At the moment it extracts Data set ID, Student ID, Forename, Surname, Year Group and their group memberships for all students currently on-roll. I'm in the process of wirting an interface to import this data into moodle, it's in its infantcy at the moment thou.
    Wait until you get around to assessment data and lesson by lesson attendance - it is a whole lot more involved! You can get the data out, but doing it quickly is another matter (particularly if you have a lot of students with a lot of data!).

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    Re: Extracting data from an MIS

    @alcinm I see you and Phil are competing for the most comprehensive posting awards !
    I thought Capita went down the IMS route some four years ago in the absence of any real guidance from the Deaprtment or Becta. But it was not in isolation. They were in a working group with Granada, Microsoft and Capita that evaluated all the options including SIF and found for VLE integration that IMS was the best solution. All four then started developing to this solution and gave their feedback to Becta. Fronter also contribute deto the standard. It was only much later after this date that Becta announced SIF. All the credible demos I have seen by VLE suppliers on the Becta framework, including Netmedia and Fronter, have a IMS link. IMS is also the method used in our school for working with the SIMS learning platform. I am sure I have seen another research study that showed IMS was far superior to SIF and will try and dig it out - but it's no surprise that Becta found SIF superior.

    The real important point you make is regarding the cost of SIF per transaction or in fact any cost for SIF implementation. I am not sure where your USA evidence comes from but in speaking to Pearsons who have implemented SIF in the states the cost was horrendous and they feel SIF could be a disaster for UK schools. You appear to work for a small innovative supplier and would do us all a favour if you could find out all the SIF costs and post them here. We already use VLE's from multiple suppliers and keeping them all fed is just about manageable. We really need your help to understand the real cost of SIF.

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    Re: Extracting data from an MIS

    I have limited programming and minimal DBA exeprience. So, I've been reading various threads about extracting data from SIMS/CMIS and other proprietary systems from a newb perspective.

    There's been a lot of talk about API's, XML and webservice, business objects (I'm assuming this refers to the business logic layer of th app) even reference to COM objects aswell as plain old SQL queries and crystal Reports when discussing the various ways of communicating with the CMIS/SIMS database. Could someone explain the limitations or issues with the various technologies discussed and how they relate to what Capita are or aren't doing. And the issues with access to the 'database' which I would have thought the school are responsible for maintaining while Capita as the developer would maintain the application code and business logic. Could someone please give a quick 101 for a non-SIMS/CMIS admin. I'm curious.

    From my own point of view as a sysadmin what would be wrong with using perl scripts to extract and work on the data you need ? Is there a need for any kind of middleware at all ?

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    Re: Extracting data from an MIS

    Quote Originally Posted by limbo
    Quote Originally Posted by maniac
    Those using CMIS, I've got a PHP solution which works, and extracts data from CMIS into a mySQL table, where I can manipulate it to do virtually anything I need.

    At the moment it extracts Data set ID, Student ID, Forename, Surname, Year Group and their group memberships for all students currently on-roll. I'm in the process of wirting an interface to import this data into moodle, it's in its infantcy at the moment thou.
    Wait until you get around to assessment data and lesson by lesson attendance - it is a whole lot more involved! You can get the data out, but doing it quickly is another matter (particularly if you have a lot of students with a lot of data!).
    I've briefly looked at this, and yep it's complex! Don't think I'll be persuing assesment and attendance data, personal details are enough for me. Just getting the information I've got meant querying 5 different tables per student. Takes about 30 seconds to export all the data, which I was pleased with.

    Mike.

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    Re: Extracting data from an MIS

    @torledo: On a technical programatical front, we (schools) cannot get data from SIMS using popular and efficient methods such as web services or APIs from our own applications.

    The method they offer is far from adequate - so-called "SDK", which is not an SDK in the proper definition - it is a scheduled CSV/XML export feature at best. It is what we'd expect from cheap software developed by teachers circa 1999; not a high-profile company such as Capita, in 2007.

    We are not allowed to connect directly to the SQL server without voiding any support contracts.

    We believe there are tools from Capita (that provide the sort of integration we want with SIMS) that are available to third party software developers,m but at a phenomenal cost that schools couldn't even dream of paying.

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    Re: Extracting data from an MIS

    Sorry completely off topic but did you work for Redbridge by any chance Mike?

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    Re: Extracting data from an MIS

    Hi Olcinm

    Lots of questions here and not enough time to do them justice!

    IMS

    Simple questions first. IMS is designed to link two or more systems with their own data stores and we do use IMS to link SIMS to Learnwise. SIMS has web parts for SharePoint, they don’t use IMS because our web parts link directly to SIMS with no intermediate store. When you use one of our web parts you are editing the data through the business objects in SIMS directly.

    As I understand things Fronter is implementing IMS links. At the moment IMS is not a two way process i.e. Assessment data is not passed back to the MIS and progress on this is stalled because we need clarity on what is happening with SIF. The IMS link though is complete enough to update the VLE with pupil, teacher and group information quite a plus point in terms of managing the VLE.

    I can’t see how the promotion of IMS limits the field to the big players – specs are in the public domain, transport of data is FOC.
    We can’t speak for the other VLE providers and why they might endorse SIF.

    CTF

    Will SIF replace CTF? Not exactly but I’m sure that it could be used to transport the data. This is beyond my knowledge however I don’t think this is straight forwards. How does the receiving school know which pupils are coming to it and activate the listener? When the child is still at the feeder school, what happens to changes made to the child’s record in the receiver school? Do they automatically go back to the feeder i.e. someone else is changing your records? Indeed I believe that SIF has the concept of one owner for the data item so would the receiver school be able to alter the record before admission? Would the whole process have to be managed by an application at the LA – probably. Has SIF solved the problem – in my opinion no. It has got the data from A to C via B.

    SIF

    In our opinion there are huge outstanding questions around SIF. Should a school really transmit pupil/staff data to an anonymous agent that is asking, without question? SIF does not give a school the option to refuse to supply data.

    The UK is working towards a SIF data standard and so at present there is no means of gaining SIF accreditation. The proof of concept in Birmingham involved data dumps of about 100 data items from schools to the LA and 1 from the LA to schools; this is very primate. To work properly, agents would need to transmit incremental data changes, the range of data has to be increased enormously and suspense processing put into SIMS. Creating agents across the whole of SIMS is likely to cost around ÂŁ1m so we need our LAs to be demanding that we do this work and at present the demands are very low. In fact at a recent LA user group we were instructed not to spend their money on SIF. If you look at the Becta PWC report on the Proof of Concept which available on their web site, it is not a resounding endorsement of SIF. If SIF is to work in the UK it needs to be mandated by DCSF and funded. If this happened SIF might work.

    I can’t quote you costs for gaining SIF accreditation, getting approval of your agent (for each version) or indeed the annual pupil charges because they are not in the public domain and we are all guessing. A number of our smaller partners have investigated and said that they cannot afford to implement SIF.

    Partnership Exchange

    A trick question if ever I saw one!

    Firstly yes we are using a ZIS in this solution. However SIF allows a supplier to add supplier specific info so we have added fields to hold temporal data. We have also defined messages for specific attendance at period level. More importantly we have added intelligence to each data item. This tells our agent why the data has been sent and allows us to act appropriately. This isn’t a standard SIF implementation.

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    Re: Extracting data from an MIS

    The SDK is a roylaty free means of getting data out of SIMS easily. It can do everything that JonnyMac has described his interface as doing. It is does an adequate job.

    If you want to use the same business objects as our developers that is possible. Go to our web site and look up the partner programme.

    We have over 100 partners that make a living from using one or the other.

    We cannot support schools that have code added to the SIMS database. It is just not practical.

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    Re: Extracting data from an MIS

    Quote Originally Posted by PhilNeal
    The SDK is a roylaty free means of getting data out of SIMS easily. ... It is does an adequate job.
    I think a lot of us have to disagree with you on this point, as is evident from previous threads in the MIS Systems forum

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    Re: Extracting data from an MIS

    It depends on your needs. Take a look at BOs - absolutely everything that our developers use is available.

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    Re: Extracting data from an MIS

    It is really good that Phil Neal is an active part of this forum.
    Phil is Mr SIMS, the person who brought SIMS into the world all those years ago. Before that we had nothing.
    We are now facing a future where data needs to be easily extracted from whatever system it is in and used in multiple ways to inform a wide range of professionals.
    Phil identifies that huge costs in wishing to extract data from SIMS (and other data systems) through the SIF proposals. But does that mean we shouldn't try to make data flow more easily?
    The response to this must be that we need to get our data out of last generation systems by the best route and put them into new systems where it can be used in the potentially huge number of ways that should be possible when schools meet the 2010 targets for Learning platform integration with MIS systems.
    I rather think that putting data into concrete piggy banks designed 20 or so years ago is a bad idea. Data needs to reside in whatever system makes it most easily available for the use of school managers, performance data analysts, learning platform deveopers etc.

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    Re: Extracting data from an MIS

    Thanks for the comprehensive reply again Phil. I hope others are appreciating the debate. I know StArbiter does

    Quote Originally Posted by StArbiter
    I thought Capita went down the IMS route some four years ago in the absence of any real guidance from the Deaprtment or Becta. But it was not in isolation. snipped by Olcinm
    It was only much later after this date that Becta announced SIF. All the credible demos I have seen by VLE suppliers on the Becta framework, including Netmedia and Fronter, have a IMS link. IMS is also the method used in our school for working with the SIMS learning platform. I am sure I have seen another research study that showed IMS was far superior to SIF and will try and dig it out - but it's no surprise that Becta found SIF superior.
    Becta announced the SIF direction to vendors back in at least October 2005 at the Learning Platform Technical Working Group, which is over 2 years ago.I was there when the question about the IMS submission was asked by Capita. I thought they said it was less than a year before they submitted their proposal. RM I believe were also involved by the way and isn't GLOW in Scotland based on IMS?

    Look forward to seeing other reports.

    Quote Originally Posted by StArbiter
    The real important point you make is regarding the cost of SIF per transaction or in fact any cost for SIF implementation. I am not sure where your USA evidence comes from but in speaking to Pearsons who have implemented SIF in the states the cost was horrendous and they feel SIF could be a disaster for UK schools.
    It was the Becta report that stated there were significant cost savings in USA but of course these could have been because of process changes not specifically because of SIF.

    Pearson do use SIF though yes? And what are their UK Learning Platform Partner UniServity using? SIF or IMS? I don't think anyone has answered my question about Serco. Are they internally using the SIF data model and haven't they committed to SIF? Anyone know what's happening in the Antipodes regarding Moodle and Mahara two of the Open Source developers that may dominate the world one day. If someone was to finance SIF development for those two I think we'd be in danger of SIF really taking off at least for the VLE ePortfolio side of things.

    Quote Originally Posted by PhilNeal
    I can’t see how the promotion of IMS limits the field to the big players – specs are in the public domain, transport of data is FOC.
    We can’t speak for the other VLE providers and why they might endorse SIF.
    My point about smaller companies using IMS was concerns over their being no transport mechanism defined in IMS and that it doesn't come with a school specific data model. Won't this mean they may have to do more development to be able to interact with the choices made by different database implementers in the UK depending on their "flavour" of transport listener etc.

    I have no problem with "data dumping" as you call it for a PoC which after all was looking at the transport mechanism more than a data model standard. I would imagine the next stages of SIF piloting in Birmingham and Northern Ireland will get granular and specific regarding the data model.

    Quote Originally Posted by PhilNeal
    IMS has web parts for SharePoint, they don’t use IMS because our web parts link directly to SIMS with no intermediate store.
    I realised that. But why not implement the intermediate store. Surely this would help with integration across a Sharepoint between VLE, Portal and SIMS and also help those people developing web parts for education using the MOSS 2007 SDK? It seems to me that the current SIMS LG application layer is a quick and dirty solution which isn't very flexible regarding VLE<>MIS interoperability and location of SIMS server and Sharepoint Portal and VLE. A local authority may have problems with this especially where secondary schools have views on where the servers are located and primaries are more likely to want central hosting. And as we may move into a future where we want more flexibility and interoperability using servers located across the web, on LANs and in LA centralised intranets plus having to work with sixth form implementations for 14-19 MIS and VLE and ePortfolio integration it all just becomes too limiting. Either IMS or SIF will be the solution so get the web parts using those too and the application layer more flexible to allow a sharepoint intermediary store and sharing of data with the VLE.

    Quote Originally Posted by PhilNeal
    If SIF is to work in the UK it needs to be mandated by DCSF and funded. If this happened SIF might work.
    Couldn't agree more and that's why I feel Capita's stance isn't very helpful. It gives out mixed messages. Are you saying IMS would work to give us the dynamic data interoperability we need? How do you get around the lack of a transport standard built in? Which transport standard will come out on top for IMS or will there be several?

    And finally, if IMS is so good why not use that for the Partnership Server instead of your non-standard SIF implementation? Is there any chance you could work with SIF, Becta and the other MIS vendors to get these non-standard things into SIF or SIF UK if they are so important?

    MIS vendors are probably working for their shareholders not for schools or LAs. Becta is probably working for the DCSF, LAs and school leaders in that order. Me? I'm hopefully looking out for pupils, parents then teachers but in an LA context (for now). I think we need to prioritise the needs of the owners of the data (pupils/parents) and remember it's pupils' education that matters most not profit. Naive? Maybe.

    We will wait to see if the DCSF does what you suggest.

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    Re: Extracting data from an MIS

    Hi as a newbie to this forum can anyone explain to me what the benefits and costs may be with SIF ? I want to take a university project forward and be able to link an RFID tag card to all the school MIS systems.

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