We are currently undergoing the birmingham trial of SIF, to say it has been smooth is a massive understatement.
One thing to bear in mind that it will enivitable involve 3-4 parties with any project taking on SIF.
1) the vle or application agent provider
2) the MIS agent provider
3) the Local MIS system support provider
4) the ZIS service provider
from experience it is a 3-4 way blame exercise with each blaming eachother for delays.
However as we are the pilot we will be hit by these problems more than anyone else.
One thing to mention also all of the SIF agents are infact dumb agents and simply pass data no processing or checking so for instance attendance data will overwrite any existing marks within your MIS. All processing / checking will need to be done prior to sending to SIF/ZIS.
Very interested to hear how you get on with the SIF trial. The SIF model makes real sense in theory. My LA is a committed SIFa member and we are watching developments with a keen eye.
Data cleansing is a clear problem whatever model is used and we have already fallen foul of the sorts of issues that you have described with bespoke, or non-standards based solutions. Our proposed model will see the ZIS sending datasets predefined as 'uncleansed' to a data cleansing service. This in turn will send the 'cleansed' data back to the ZIS / Sorting Office to be sent on to it's original intended destination.
Ultimately, to reduce the amount of data entry replication that happens across schools and LAs, data owners or guardians must be identified for each data item. These owners or guardians are then given responsibility for the quality of the data item. Data owners or guardians will change depending, for example, on the age of the child, employee of a member of staff, etc., etc.
Interested to have feedback on this methodology...
Totally agree ZIS / SIF is the way forward and unfortunatly someone has to be the guinnue pig! Ironicly we are also one of the schools on the choping block for closure in birmingam so all this work will actually only really benifit others....
We are now in Month 4 of the development and integration and more is still to be done as it isnt secure transmition yet as its only using http not https????
being in a birmingham school I have tried to get as much as i can and have spoken to a fair few people in the team behind it.
I sat down with one of the team and they drew up a flow diagram on how it works.
I've put it up on my blog site - have a look if you wish
thanks for that.
nice art work
Working on the project has highlighted its positives and negatives.
As i said earlier in this thread it just doesnt envolve one party in any development its several each needing to develop their part before the other can proceed. We are now looking at March for a deadline as new modules need to be written for SIF / CMIS.
Totally forgot about this.... Well 12mths from project start they still couldnt get it to work so we canned the project and went back to eportal.
SIF/ZIF however does work and is running, we eventually blamed the provider of the system for not understanding the basics of registration. They could not see that the system would need to only allow students to register on terminals that were in the rooms that they were timetabled in. They could not see a student registering in reception area and then disapearing off site.. so we walked away..
Modules for SIF / ZIF are written on a request basis so that adds time to any project in the first instance. By now though i assume a lot more interface modules have been written so the system should be a lot more simpler to implement..
I feel I must contribute.
If I can start by quoting from a previous post of mine some months ago
“Solutions bigger than a school don’t work”
It’s the nature of the way schools work at present. The pedagogical shift needed to facilitate the necessary changes to work collaboratively will not occur in the short term. We have to work in the here and now.
I have been predicting the failure of these LA and RBC hosted VLEs for the past 2 years. Certainly in the authority in which I work this has been the case.
The reasons for this…
A conflict of commercial and educational agendas
A lack of understanding at the LA of the needs of schools
A lack of understanding of the needs of schools by the schools
A lack of engagement of the schools with the LA. Most schools either don’t give a damn or do not have the time or will to take part.
Ideas of federated identity and centralised MIS at this stage are, in my opinion, a waste of time and effort.
Is all of this about relinquishing power? No not really it’s about putting in place solutions that are relevant and functional ie they work now! Maybe in 5 years’ time a solution will come, but until then, after nearly 3 years of being involved in implementing an LA solution, my advice is do not get involved.
So what is a relevant solution?
Ask the staff but more importantly ask the kids. If you want my opinion (which you probably don’t but I’m going to give it anyway):-
1. Local VLE and associated services with MIS integration (choose whatever platform floats your boat). Why?
a) Who the hell wants to provision thousands of class sites for classes relevant only to your school on an LA or RBC solution? An LA not too far from us managed by a large provider uses a VLE solution where class sites are provisioned manually!!
b) Integrated authentication actually works in school. (No LA firewalls etc to contend with)
c) MIS and VLE integration at the school level is fairly cheap and simple eg you can integrate for less that £2,500 pa. Our whole VLE solution costs less than £3,500 pa. Which leads nicely onto…
d) Easy to change the solution. How many schools when they embark on this journey make the right decision first time? How many providers once in place are then willing to change? (be honest) Eg If you have Sharepoint and want to change to Moodle, no year-long committee meetings with solution providers and negotiations with other school. Let’s face it how often do you agreement between 2 schools let alone more than 15? We need to be dynamic in the solutions we put in place. Large scale solutions cost lots of money and are not agile.
e) Control!! Yes, there I said it control. But for the reasons highlighted above there is justification for this. Many companies are now in sourcing their IT retaining their organisational IT knowledge, why are schools doing the opposite? (making them less able to make IT decisions in the future). I can hear the argument i) it’s safer “in the cloud” – no it bloody isn’t. We have less down time and the data is more secure (we know what really gets backed up and how often) than any LA or RBC solution ii) It costs less – No again (see above) plus changes cost money ask any school with a MSP about that one. Imaging how much it would cost to change from Sharepoint to Moodle across the LA? The MSPs would be rubbing their hands with glee.
2. Use LA or RBC solutions for “collaborative” sites. To be honest though how many schools actually collaborate using these sites? From my investigations virtually none. Most use exam board site (secondary) or other subject specific sites which already have more specific info on them than an LA site could possibly have.
I have no doubt that someone will come up with a counter eg a Midlands based solution but having visited several placed who consume their services, I have yet to change my mind.
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