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RE: [school-discuss] Web-based School Administration...
A few reasons why web-based is such as growing trend in all sorts of
2 minutes per machine is optimistic. Even allowing the 2 minutes; on 1000
workstations that's over 30 hours work - take in the travel time (that's
over 15 sites) and you're probably looking at 4 days every time you need to
update the software (bear in mind in the UK and other countries the data
requirements for a school are set nationally and tend to change annually).
Desktop software is prone to hitting compatibility problems which will
probably raise the 2 minutes average considerably.
If there's no external access from the school, that means every site has to
have a server at considerable cost in both capital and time.
We have a number of database driven applications; the ones that are needed
to be available "off-site" have the DB separated from the webserver proper.
Our central server site is firewalled (EAL4+ certified), and utilises
proxies to access individual services on individual servers. Even if the
webserver is hacked (unlikely if you keep up to date and a real challenge
through the firewall), the DB is still secure. The data is not interesting
enough to attract the serious crackers anyway.
Powerful servers are just not expensive anymore - a dual Xeon with 3Gb RAM
costs less than GBP3000 and will serve thousands of web-clients happily.
And then we get to home access. In the EU it is required that employers make
provision to enable home-working. This can either be web-client or VPN
tunnels. Which is easier? Which cheaper? Further in the UK it is a
requirement to make information regarding the child available to the
"responsible adult", to facilitate their involvement in the learning
process. While email is a good and useful way to provide alerts, it doesn't
make a good way to review the childs aspirations, ongoing improvements and
All in all, the desktop client in this context is best limited as much as
possible - preferably tto major number crunching exercises such as timetable
generation and custom reports. For everything else the web enablement
provides great advantages.
From: James Smyth
Sent: 8/21/03 12:11 PM
Subject: Re: [school-discuss] Web-based School Administration...
A few comments about District DNA and the Web.
It is not web based. Its database (firebird - robust - powerful - free)
sits protected inside your firewall. I have yet to see a web based
system that adequately address the security problems of having your
mission critical data outside your firewall (even if it inside, a hole
exists, it has to). Is it possible to setup a secure system? Probably.
See e-weeks open hack competition, where experts secure an exposed
After reading the e-week competition, ask yourself if your school or any
school has or can afford that level of expertise, never mind some very
expensive databases. I have spent over 20 years in school data
processing and even in school districts with 100+ schools, I have never
What does a web interface do for a developer? It gives him less
interface tools to work with. Anything a web interface can do (UI
speaking) a regular GUI can, but the reverse is not true. It adds
complexity because it must maintain a stateless connection and
complexity means bugs. The only positive advantage is that it is cross
platform (at least potentially). Heck I use Mozzilla, but I have to keep
IE around because some web sites require it.
What does it do for you the school? It requires no client software
installation other than the presumed already there browser, saving you
maybe 2 minutes per workstation. It is slower and likely has a less
efficient UI (User Interface). I ignores the processing power of your
workstation, making the server do all the work (seems like the old time
sharing days) requiring a more powerful (read expensive) server. It
allows you to work from anywhere (of course it also gives hackers their
shot from anywhere). I have always regarded the programs I write as
tools to allow you to work less, not work 24 hours a day from anywhere.
Oh, one thing I forgot the web allows your parents to login securely and
check on there son/daughter. Boy that sounds like a good idea. Forget
for a moment the security problems (they get to see someone else
son/daughter, or worse yet the password gets past around the student
body), it requires the parent to learn an interface and to take the
initiative to login and check out things.
In my experience as a teacher (not to mention that I wrote such an
interface for one school) the parents who most need to do this are the
parents lest likely to. The approach I took in District DNA is to e-mail
the parents notifications. You son is absent today etc. The parents can
get the information at work etc., by doing what they normally do, check
their e-mail. No interface to learn, no special initiative on there
part. That approach of course is more work on your part. You need to
maintain the e-mail address and what the parents want to know. Of course
it also gives you more information; you know what information the parent
has received. What a nice bit of information for a parent conference.
----- Original Message -----
From: Micah <mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org> Quinn
To: email@example.com <mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sent: Tuesday, August 19, 2003 4:31 PM
Subject: [school-discuss] Web-based School Administration...
I've been doing some searching for a web-based school administration
program using the software resource listings on schooforge and other web
sites. I've evaluated several of the applications and found only a
couple to be really up to speed for production use.
NOTE: My notes/comments regarding the following applications are not
intended to offend the developers/supporters of those applications.
It's simply my naive comments based on only a couple of hours of
research. Apologies in advance for anything mis-stated. :-)
I've currently looked at:
* OpenAdminForSchool - The demo shows a very rough interface and
very few complete features.
* DistrictDNA - Install was complicated and it's not a web-based
* Educational Information System - Nothing but a framework so far;
nothing really usable yet. Looks like some great goals though.
* Ionia Student - In planning stages
* LISSARD - Again, some nice ideas, but mostly boilerplate for
more complete features in the future.
* MainBrain - Really nice commercial application, but I've no idea
of the pricing. It looks like expensive software.
* SchoolMation - Very nice software and extremely reasonable in
pricing. Anyone out there used this?
* MyPHPSchool - Again, fairly incomplete and no real examples to
* OpenSIS - Sounds promising, but the site "opensis.org" is down.
Anyone use this?
* OpenUSS - Has some outstanding looking concepts for making
material available, but doesn't seem to encompass administration tasks.
(Grades, student info, etc.)
Anyways, you get the idea. Is anyone on this list currently using
web-based software that is of production quality and will do some or all
of the following:
1. Student Information (name, age, address, phone, parents, photograph,
2. Grade Tracking (Transcripts, report cards, class averages, etc.)
3. Attendance Tracking
4. Emergency Contact Information
5. Course Tracking
6. Generic Form/Document Tracking (Permission slips, parent
7. Internet News Publishing
8. Secure Parental Internet Access
Thanks for any feedback you can give.