The ClaSS Administrator's Guide

Stuart T. Johnson



  

Revision History
Revision 0.0.52005-11-16

ClaSS (ClaSS Student System) is a complete student tracking, reporting and information management system for schools. This document will become the administrators guide to ClaSS. The administrator maybe anyone whose responsibility it is to configure and populate a ClaSS system ready for use by the staff of a school. In other words, this guide is for the data administrator and not the technical person who installed the ClaSS package on a web-server (they should refer to the Installation Guide).


Table of Contents
1. Where to Start
2. Talking the Same Terminology
3. Defining the Curriculum Structure
3.1. Curriculum Packs
3.2. The Curriculum Matrix
4. Loading Student Data
5. Loading Staff Data
6. Creating and Populating Classes
6.1. The Classes Matrix
6.2. Managing Classes
6.2.1. Assigning Classes to Teachers
6.2.2. Manually Populating and Changing Class Lists

1. Where to Start

Where do you start once you've successfully run the ClaSS installation? Or maybe you've been handed the administrators login details to a new, empty ClaSS site and been told to configure it for your school. Without data ClaSS won't do a lot. This guide is about the initial filling of the database so that ClaSS begins to reflect the way your school works.

If you are impatient to try out ClaSS and see how a working system functions then I'd suggest you grab a copy of the demo dataset that matches your version of ClaSS. You should quickly be able to make an evaluation of ClaSS and decide if it will match your school's needs. If the demo doesn't reflect your school's organisation or the curriculum is different then be assured that the database that underlies ClaSS is flexible and able to accommodate (probably) any educational environment; achieving that is what this guide is about.


2. Talking the Same Terminology

Although the terminology may well be very different, or worse similar but applied in another way, the concepts used to organise any system of education will inevitably bear strong similarities. It is the objective of this short introduction to ensure the terms used in the rest of the document are clearly defined and understood.

ClaSS was conceived as a result of hard gained experience teaching the English National Curriculum. So, inevitably it should be most immediately accessible to users with the same background. They are still advised to read on, however, and check that a class means class, and a set a set in their particular school!

The following concepts are at the core of how ClaSS organises information and it is important to be able to map the terms used by ClaSS to those more commonly used in your own educational environment. Lets start from the most important, the classroom, upwards:


3. Defining the Curriculum Structure

3.1. Curriculum Packs

The "Curriculum Packs" are used to define codes for subjects and courses, yeargroups and forms, and to setup some predefined types of marks and assessments. The English National Curriculum pack is the default pack. During installation this should have been unpacked under the top-level directory curriculum.

Upon making any changes to the curriculum packs it is necessary to reload them into the database. This is done using the option Update Curriculum in the AdminBook; login as administrator to have this option available. The Update Curriculum option must also be run once after the installation of ClaSS to load the curriculum data.

If the default pack does not match the needs of your school then it is possible to edit the contents of the files that make it up. All exist in the directory curriculum/english_natcur and are currently (as of release 0.5) in plain CSV format with unquoted values. An XML-based format is intended for future releases. The files contain the following:

  • subject_codes.csv - has a simple format of two columns: subject short-code, full-length subject name. The short code maybe up to 10 characters in length but codes of five or less are often displayed better.

  • course_code.csv - again has first: course short-code, full-length course name. Then an integer value called stage which gives the sequence of the courses (usually related to the sequence of the yeargroups which undertake respective courses). If students from a single yeargroup follow more than one course, the courses' stage will usually have the same value. The setting and default number of classes can all be changed on a per subject basis from inside the AdminBook. The values set here will used as defaults for subjects in that course.

  • yeargroups.csv - the id is an integer value which should indicate the order in which students progress through the yeargroups and must be unique. The name is the full-length name of the yeargroup. The ncyear is only of concern if data is to be imported and exported to comply with the UK government's CBDS XML data format. If this is not the case the ncyear value should just be the same as the id. The section is only needed if the yeargroups are assigned to separate administrative sections within the school or perhaps to different geographical locations.

  • formgroups.csv - full-length descriptive name (which must be unique) followed by the yeargroup's id to which that formgroup belongs.

  • grade_schemes.csv - these are the non-numerical assessment schemes which can be created at any time within the MarkBook by any member of staff. The file provides the opportunity to pre-define the most commonly used grading schemes. Provide a full-length identifying name, plus a longer description to help inform staff. The grades themselves are entered as a colon separated alpha-numeric:numeric pair. Each grade is separated from the next by a semi-colon. The grades should be entered in order of their numeric value. The numeric value is also used in averaging grades and can be used to weight them. The course and subject fields should be set to to the wild-card value % to make them available to all classes. Alternatively access can be restricted to specific course and subject combinations, replacing the % with a course or subject code. The author field should generally be set to administrator for these predefined grading schemes.

  • mark_definitions.csv - Similar to grade_schemes.csv this file provides the opportunity to pre-define the most commonly used mark definitions. These can also be created from within the MarkBook. Refer above for comments for the fields in common with grade_schemes.csv. The additional field scoretype must take one value from: raw score, grade, percentage. Where scoretype=grade the name of the grading scheme (from grade_Schemes.csv) should be entered otherwise it is null. the tier field is currently not used and should always be equal to none. Where scoretype=percentage the outoftotal for calculating the percentage should be entered (this is a default value only and can be adjusted for individual marks) otherwise this takes a value of 0.

The intention is to make packs available for other curriculums in the future. It should be a straightforward task to construct an entirely new pack using the english_natcur pack as a basis. Start by copying the english_natcur directory to a new name, and adding it to the array contained in curriculums.php. Should anyone wish to contribute alternative curriculum packs, please do!

Though it is possible to make changes to the curriculum packs and update a running database with these changes at any time, caution is needed. Clearly it is possible to cause considerable inconsistencies within the database if major changes are made once courses are running.


3.2. The Curriculum Matrix

The two parts to generating a curriculum are managed by the Curriculum Matrix option in AdminBook. This option only appears when logged in as administrator.

The first table allows the subjects which make up a particular course to be identified. Without a check-box being ticked, classes will not be available to any students for that particular Course/Subject combination.

The second table makes courses available to students in a particular yeargroup. Often each yeargroup may only be following one course. Courses which have a duration of more than a year will need to be assigned to more than one yeargroup however.

Once both tables are completed to match your curriculum's needs the information must be submitted by hitting the 'Generate Tables' button. Doing so will save the information to the database making it available to generate classes.


4. Loading Student Data

In the following section it is assumed that data about the student population already exists in some electronic form. The tool for loading this data into the database is found as the option New Students in the AdminBook.

Whether the file of student data has been exported from another database or from a spreadsheet, it needs to be checked that the format meets the following specification. Each student's information should be contained on a single line of the file. All data items should be without quotes and separated by commas. This commonly found file format is usually described as a csv file in applications. The order of the data items for each student maybe in any order on the line but this order must duplicated identically for every student in the file - any variation will lead to data being entered wrongly for that student and may corrupt the database. Each student line must also contain the same number of data items, an empty value being represented without any white-space between its enclosing commas.

Should the student information only exist on paper then it is best to generate a plain text file matching the specified format, perhaps inputing the data using a text editor or using tables in a spreadsheet.


5. Loading Staff Data


6. Creating and Populating Classes

6.1. The Classes Matrix

The function of this table is to generate the entries in the database for the teaching classes needed to deliver the curriculum and, if possible to add student names to those classes.

Once yeargroups have been assigned to follow specific courses using the curriculum matrix the information maybe viewed in more detail under the Classes Matrix option in AdminBook. Select a course to inspect and the entries made in the Curriculum Matrix will have generated entries here. The entries are based on the default values for each course which are set in the course_codes.csv file in the curriculum pack.

Before using the table you need to have established how many classes will be needed to teach subjects in each yeargroup and how these classes will be populated with students. The student data should already have been imported.

You may choose to populate classes either by 'forms' or 'sets'. Only by choosing the former will ClaSS be able to automatically add student names to classes, assigning all students from the same formgroup to the same teaching class for that subject. The 'sets' option will leave class lists empty for populating by hand using the Classes option.

Fine adjustments to the curriculum structure may also be made here. Where one subject from a particular course is offered to a yeargroup (rather than all subjects from that course) you simply need to select a number of classes and choose forms or sets.

After making adjustments to the table for one course you must hit the 'Update Tables' button to submit the changes.

Once you have worked through all the courses, making adjustments as needed, you are ready to populate the database with classes. Hitting the 'Generate Classes' button will create all the teaching classes for all the course/subject combinations specified. Where possible the class lists will also be populated with student names, which for now is only possible when the students are taught together as a form (the 'forms' option).


6.2. Managing Classes

Once teaching classes have been generated for the first time using the Classes Matrix, the tasks of assigning classes to teachers, of manually adding and removing students to classes, and of initially populating the setted classes are all handled by the Classes tool in the AdminBook.

Unlike the other options discussed so far, this is made available to all teaching and support staff, with filters applied depending upon a user's responsibilities. This tool is also accessible as a short-cut from the MarkBook and is designed to give teachers the ability to manage the student lists of their own teaching classes.


6.2.1. Assigning Classes to Teachers

In order to assign classes to teachers, first click on the AdminBook tab at the top right of the screen. Then click on Classes in the Manage box to the left of the screen. Next, by clicking on the drop-down list in the LogBook at the top left of the screen, you can select, for example, a course or subject to work on.

Any classes already assigned to teachers will appear, together with drop-down lists of Subject Teachers (who have been assigned some classes in this subject/course), Unassigned Teachers (who have not been assigned classes in this subject/course), Unassigned Forms, Unassigned Classes and Assigned Classes. To assign a class, click on the drop-down list of either Subject Teachers or Unassigned Teachers and select a teacher: next, select a class from either Unassigned Classes or Assigned Classes by clicking on it, and then click on the Submit button near the top right of the screen. A message on the screen will appear which says "Results: Assigned classes", and then the previous information will return, this time including the class you have just assigned.

It is possible to select more than one class to assign to a teacher before pressing the Submit button: it is also possible to select from Unassigned Classes and Assigned Classes at the same time. When selecting more than one class from one drop-down list (e.g. two classes from Unassigned Classes), it is necessary to hold down the Ctrl key at the same time as clicking to select the class. It is also possible to click and drag using the mouse to select classes which are adjacent in the list. If you wish to change the classes and/or teacher you have selected, clicking on the Reset button (next to the Submit button) will clear all fields. If a teacher has already been assigned a particular class, and you try to re-assign the same class to that teacher, a message saying "Duplicate entry" will appear, and the class will appear only once in the teacher's list of assigned classes.

If you wish to unassign a class already assigned to a teacher, click on the class where it appears in the teacher's list of assigned classes. A different screen will appear, with the lists Current (Subject) Class-List, Students Not In Subject and Students In Subject, and the buttons Unassign Class, Change Students, Cancel and Reset. Click on the Unassign Class button: an "Unassigned" message will appear, and then the previous page will return, where you will see that the class has been unassigned from that teacher.


6.2.2. Manually Populating and Changing Class Lists

In order to add or remove students in a class-list, first click on the AdminBook tab at the top right of the screen. Then click on Classes in the Manage box to the left of the screen. Next, by clicking on the drop-down list in the LogBook at the top left of the screen, you can select, for example, a keystage or subject to work on.

Classes assigned to teachers will appear, together with drop-down lists of Subject Teachers (who have been assigned some classes in this subject/keystage), Unassigned Teachers (who have not been assigned classes in this subject/keystage), Unassigned Forms, Unassigned Classes and Assigned Classes. Click on the class you wish to work on where it appears in a teacher's list of assigned classes. A different screen will appear, with the lists Current (Subject) Class-List, Students Not In Subject and Students In Subject, and the buttons Unassign Class, Change Students, Cancel and Reset.

To remove a student from a class, click in the Remove Students box after the student's name in the Current (Subject) Class-List, where a tick will appear, and then click on the Change Students button. A message saying "Removed (student's name)" will appear, and then the previous page will return with the change effected - the student's name will now appear in the Students Not In Subject list (unless they have already been placed in another class, in which case their name will appear in the Students In Subject list for that class). You may select as many students as you wish before clicking on the Change Students button.

To add a student to a class, select a student's name from the Students Not In Subject list by clicking on it, and then click on the Change Students button. A message saying "Added (student's name)" will appear, and then the previous page will return with the change effected - the student's name will now appear in the Current (Subject) Class-List and Students In Subject lists. It is possible to select more than one student before pressing the Change Students button, by holding down the Ctrl key at the same time as clicking to select the student. It is also possible to click and drag using the mouse to select students' names which are adjacent in the list.

If it is necessary, on the rare occasion, to add a student to two different classes for the same subject, for the second class select the student's name from the Students In Subject list by clicking on it, and then click on the Change Students button. A message saying "Added (student's name)" will appear, and then the previous page will return with the change effected. The student's name will now appear twice in the Students In Subject list. If you select a student from the Students In Subject list and try to add them a second time to a class they are already placed in, a message saying "Failed. Student already in class!" will appear, and the student's name will appear only once in the class.

If you wish to change the students you have selected in one or more lists, clicking on the Reset button (next to the Cancel button) will clear all selections you have made (in the Current (Subject) Class-List, it is also possible to click a second time in the Remove Students box to cancel a selection made: the tick will disappear).

Clicking on the Cancel button will return you to the page containing the classes assigned to teachers in the particular subject/keystage selected.