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Feature set questions?

Topics: User Forum
Oct 12, 2006 at 9:46 PM
Context:- School in Rotherham UK, 1500 students, 120 staff, 600 PC, 21 servers (Me network manager, 21 years teaching experience, 15 year IT experience both as manager and developer VB,, SQL).

Having installed SPS 2007 and the SLK on a test server and made it available to staff, they have been very impressed with its simplicity and power. They have, however, raised a few questions (typical teachers, give them the earth & they still want more!).

1. Several staff like the ability to easily assign work to students but were concerned that they would have to scroll through the whole student population (1500) each time they set an assignment. Is it possible to import group memberships from an MIS system eg Joe Bloggs 11RE3 (Year 11 Religious Education set 3) etc remembering that Joe Bloggs will be a member of several teaching groups. These group memberships will need to be either destroyed or carried over each academic year? and will this feature be available in final release? I believe that this ability is fundamental to the success of the SLK. Without this ability I believe the whole project will fail.

2. Will the teacher be able to see, annotate and return students work?

3. Will the student be able to edit and return the work (I think you may have addressed this issue elese where)?

I have seen many VLEs in my time and this is the first time I have seen something that I think is usable by real teacher. I know I've been there!
Oct 12, 2006 at 11:19 PM
Having read the SLK specification. I am concerned that what I identified in point 1 may not be possible directly but maybe a filtered set of users could be displayed when assigning based on a query of the imported MIS data that identifies the students taught by a member of staff (selected by the context of the login or drop down populated from the MIS data) and a drop down of the groups taught by that member of staff. Obviously this would require co-ordination of the login names in AD and in the MIS data to ensure they match up but this would be preferable to selecting you 25 pupils from 1500.

Import data to stand alone MIS table in the SLK(CSV)

Possible format for MIS data table

TeacherID Teachername Class StudentID StudentName StudentnameinaD

On teacher (instructor) assignment page have 2 DropDown Boxes one for selecting teacher one for selecting the class.

Simplified queries

Query to select teacher:-

Select distinct Teacher_name to populate DD box

Query to select class:-

select distinct class where teacher_name = <result from teacher name DD Box>

Query to select students:-

select Studentnamein_ad where class = <result from class DD box> and <result from teacher name DD Box>

This cuts the student list down to just the members of the group and does not affect the workings of the SLK. Could be disabled if not used.

Benefit. Many happy teachers.

Obviously matching up the AD name to the student name is a tedious job done once a year but infinitely preferable to the alternative.

Just an idea let me know what you think.
Oct 13, 2006 at 2:50 AM
Thanks for the great feedback. It is great to hear your successes with SLK!

Let me knock out the easy questions first:

#2: The teacher will be able to see the student’s work for e-learning content by clicking on the student’s name in the grading page for the assignment. If you have Class Server content, it will open it in the grading page and the instructor can grade inside the content. For SCORM content, the teacher will be able to see the student’s work (assuming the content saves the student’s answers), but will not be able to set scores inside the content. They can of course set the final score and instructor comments in the grading matrix for the assignment. For non-e-learning content, we unfortunately do not have a “drop-box” feature in v1, but you could setup a document library on the site and give student’s directions of how to save their work in the doclib.

#3: Yes, for e-learning content, the student's work is saved to the database as they complete it (again, assuming the content reports the answers and scores). When they submit the assignment, the information is available for the instructor to review as described in #2. For non-e-learning content, there is not a drop box in V1 to automatically return the student’s work for the instructor to review.

Now, the more complicated question, #1:
I think a lot, if not all, of what you want may be possible right now with SharePoint and SLK, but the key is thinking about it as provisioning your SharePoint sites rather than provisioning SLK. SLK leverages your SharePoint site structure and permission assignments. Assignments are created within the scope of a given site and the available instructors and learners are determined by the instructor and learner permissions for that site. All of this is SharePoint provisioning, not stored in SLK at all.

You can use your MIS data to provision your SharePoint site structure, groups of students, and assign permissions for instructors and students for each site. That way, for any given sub-site the instructor only sees the groups and students that are relevant to them on the site rather than having to scroll through all 1500. If you had an automated tool to do this SharePoint provisioning, then I think it would be relatively easy to reset this provisioning after each year. I am not familiar with the commercial offerings for doing this provisioning, but I have heard they exist and perhaps someone else in the community can add some info about them.

Let’s say your school is setup as a single site collection. One possibility may be to provision sub-sites for each department and then within those sites create sub-sites based on year or class and then within those sites maybe you create individual team sites for each section. At each level you can assign different permissions to the students and instructors. For example, if you have a team site for Religious Education year 11 section 3, maybe all the learners in that section are in a SharePoint group and only that group is given the learner permission on that site. Similarly, maybe only the Religious Education teachers are given the instructor permission for the site. (Only those instructors will be able to create assignments on that site.)

The intent of the current design is to support the scenario you are describing by leverage your existing SharePoint provisioning process as much as possible and make it easy for the instructors to only see the available students that they want to see for a given site.

The SimulateClass sample application in the <SDK Download>/Samples/SLK is a sample application that does some of this site creation and may be helpful to look at.

Hope this is helpful.
Oct 13, 2006 at 12:38 PM

We are only seven days into using it so forgive our lack of knowledge. There are two types of learner those who do and then think and those who think then do. I am one of the former who needs to do it, see it happening and then think about the global issues after I have seen someting concrete. We will play around with setting up subsites etc over the next week.

Feedback from the kids is great. The focus group who have had 3 assignments given to them over the last four days say:- Simple, easy to use, helps to organise time. One kid wants us to make it available outside of school so he can prove to his dad that he is doing his homework!
Oct 13, 2006 at 12:44 PM
Can you give me details of how to run the class simulation. When I run the batch file it fails with SimulateClass.exe has encountered a problem..... . I am running on the sharepoint box, everything is installed locally. After closing the dialogue the DOS session contains the line ....Class Web must have one learner.....

Are there some instructions I am missing?
Oct 13, 2006 at 5:54 PM
Tried the site subsite approach; does'nt scale well. We could use this for restricting access for staff bit not for class assignment. After starting to read the documentation I am starting to understand your perspective (OK I should have read this first!). My question now is:- Is it possible to bulk import groups into sharepoint and is it possible to bulk insert members into these groups?
Oct 13, 2006 at 10:41 PM
Yea, it is possible to bulk create the SharePoint groups and assign members and permissions. Scaling to large scale is definitely best achieved with a tool. I think the SimulateClass code shows you how. You may try reading through the .cs file. I think it is pretty well documented what it is trying to do.

I'm not sure what the issues are on compiling the SimulateClass code. I haven't worked with it. Rick wrote the code and may have some pointers for you. I'll ping him to see if he is monitoring this thread. (I'm also not sure if he is working today, so you may not get anything until Monday.)
Oct 14, 2006 at 12:13 AM
Let me answer the simple question first, re. SimulateClass.exe: This sample code has a few requirements listed at the top of the source code, copied here for your convenience (I hope this posts correctly):

// Before running this program, the following must be true:
// -- The Web site <ClassWebUrl> (below) must be a valid SharePoint Web site, accessible to the
// current user (i.e. the person running the program).
// -- That Web site must contain at least one instructor (with the SLK Instructor permission, as
// defined in the SharePoint Learning Kit configuration page in SharePoint Central
// Administration) and one learner (with the SLK Learner permission).
// -- The documents listed in <PackageUrls> (below) must exist in SharePoint.

More generally, regarding provisioning of SharePoint users, sites, etc.: SharePoint's API allows you to do pretty much anything you can do with its UI. The next SLK CTP includes a couple more provisioning-related samples, including ProvisionFromExcel which allows you to enter information into an Excel spreadsheet (e.g. site collections, sites, permissions, SLK configuration information, etc.) and then you can use the ProvisionFromExcel sample code tool to do the corresponding bulk provisioning. It doesn't demonstrate group creation, but that would be a straightforward extension of it. And, of course, if data is coming from an external system (not a spreadsheet), the sample code would have to be adjusted accordingly.

I hope that helps...

Oct 14, 2006 at 9:00 PM
I HAVE READ THE code example cs and it works fine thank you for that. If the provisioning of groups and users can be done via Excel that would be excellent. I look forward to trying this out in the next release
Oct 14, 2006 at 9:09 PM
I have also been experimenting with stsadm in the meantime and I am sure we can use this if all else fails
Oct 15, 2006 at 5:00 PM
Does stsadm have the ability to add permissions to a group? The stsadm -o creategroup does not seem to have the ability to add a specific groups like the SLK Learners from the command line.
Oct 20, 2006 at 6:36 PM
So far I haven't found a way for stsadm.exe to add permissions to a group, but it should be a pretty straightforward extension to a tool like ProvisionFromExcel (sample code available in the next SLK CTP).