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Ask Slashdot: Open Source Software To Manage Student Grades?

timothy posted about a year and a half ago | from the vi-is-all-you-need dept.

Education 120

An anonymous reader writes "I have been assigned the task of finding a software package to automate the management of grades in a high school. It does not need to be a complete system, but rather just manage grading calculations and printing of report cards. The management of grades is currently done using spreadsheets. What are some open source options to handle this situation?"

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120 comments

Moodle. (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40983391)

Moodle has a grade management tool that might be able to handle these requirements.

Re:Moodle. (5, Informative)

MoonBuggy (611105) | about a year and a half ago | (#40983879)

My kingdom for a mod-point. Moodle is designed to do exactly what you ask - it's admittedly not the absolute best piece of software I've ever used, and there are a few rough edges, but it does its job.

The only real competitor is the utter monstrosity that is Blackboard, which I believe starts at $10k/year. For that low, low price, you get a piece of software which is slow, buggy, and has a web interface which manages to disable such revolutionary new browser features as 'the back button', and 'middle click'.

Re:Moodle. (3, Informative)

CuriousGeorge113 (47122) | about a year and a half ago | (#40984473)

FWIW, a few months back, blackboard purchased moodlerooms, which (I believe) manages the open source moodle project.

Obviously, they played lip service to "We're committed to the moodle project blah blah blah..." But honestly, it's too early to tell what will really become if moodle. My guess is that it will morph into blackboard "lite" and they will use it to try and up sell you to their blackboard program.

  http://www.zdnet.com/blog/education/blackboard-buys-moodlerooms-and-no-this-isnt-an-early-april-fools/4866 [zdnet.com]

Re:Moodle. (4, Informative)

XxtraLarGe (551297) | about a year and a half ago | (#40984961)

FWIW, a few months back, blackboard purchased moodlerooms, which (I believe) manages the open source moodle project.

Moodlerooms [moodlerooms.com] is a Moodle hosting service, completely independent of the actual Moodle project. Regardless of what happens to Moodlerooms, Moodle will continue in develpment. Remote Learner [remote-learner.net] is another Moodle hosting service, which I imagine would stand to pick up quite a bit of business if Moodlerooms tried to foist Blackboard on its customers.

Re:Moodle. (1)

n-baxley (103975) | about a year and a half ago | (#40986277)

Moodle HQ (run by the founder Martin Dougiamas) manages the project, though MoodleRooms does contribute a lot of code. I wouldn't fear about Moodle going away any time soon.

Re:Moodle. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40984983)

Actually, Blackboard is free for individual teachers now. See https://www.coursesites.com

Also, the releases within the past year have really hit it out of the ballpark in usability. Maybe you were using an older version, but it hasn't been slow or buggy in a while now.

Details? (1)

jellomizer (103300) | about a year and a half ago | (#40984439)

What do you want in a grading system?
All schools have different rules for grading some systems can handle some others do not.
We have the traditional College Grading Method, that in general statistically automatically curves the grades. Where your final grade is based on the standard deviation from the average. So in a class the average grade was 30% and most students got around that 30% you happen to get a 40% you may have just aced that class. I actually prefer this method, this allows the teacher to teach harder stuff to the students, so the easier concepts get a lot more practice and sink in better. However colleges seem to dislike the High 2.0's which this method would most likely have the bulk to f the students get. There is also talk about the entire class failing the test on purpose so they all get better grades... However I have heard the talk before however I have never saw it happen, because there is always a good handful of kids, who just don't trust the others, so they will study and do their best.

We have Letter Grades, A, B, C, D, (E/F) then we need to determine if A is the Top or A+ is the top. Does F+ allow you to pass, or just pisses off the student.
We have Percentages... What percentage is passing... 50% 60% 65%?
Do you round up or round down?
How about weighted graded? Some grades count for more then other grades.
We got the Check no Check type of grading.
We have Drop your Lowest Grade.
We got extra credit scores that can boost your grade above maximum...
Don't forget the end of the semester Mom Yelling at the teacher and principal to turn that F to a C grade.
How about the ability to scan the paper back into the system so there is a full audit, to prove to Angry Mom, that her kid is an idiot.

Re:Details? (1)

hobarrera (2008506) | about a year and a half ago | (#40984631)

So by being slightly better than the extremely mediocre average, you get an A?
This doesn't sound too good to me, especially since it would mean:
a) You're congratulating a kid because he know the very basics, when the rest can't even add two numbers.
b) An "A student" in one school might be one that completely fails in another. There's no real good measure of comparison.

Re:Details? (1)

hierophanta (1345511) | about a year and a half ago | (#40985321)

It is good. It separates the quality of the student from the quality of the instruction / classroom / school. What you are talking about goes towards curriculum management, and should discussed very separately from student performance.

To note: you explored one side of the issue: when the classroom has low standards. what about the other side of the equation when a classroom has high standards and a student that has received A's and B's their whole life gets a C.

Correlating to your 2 points: a) You are punishing the student for taking a harder class / going to a harder school / learning more b) a "C student' in one school is actually an A+ student who cant get into college.

Re:Details? (1)

jellomizer (103300) | about a year and a half ago | (#40985347)

You haven't taken statistics yet have you?

If you have a class of say 50 students. and their average is 30% and the standard deviation is around 5%
So roughly
People who got the following grades will get the following...
under 20% F
25% D
30% C
35% B
40%+ A

Being that the grades are Low we can expect that the material taught / tested was very difficult (too difficult, for example if you try to teach second graders algebra, where they can barely do addition and subtraction, and they are just learning multiply and divide. You will probably find a few kids who can get a handle on it to do a decent job, but most of the kids will making mistakes and not fully getting it. However these kids will be doing a lot of practice with addition and subtraction multiplication and division and will probably learn this much better)

As for B. Statistics based on class size will give a margin of error. For normal class sizes we can expect to see margins of errors of 5% - 10% So Ok the A student going to an other class is a B student. However, if the teacher of one class teaches his class very easy vs. the other one who teaches it hard, will have the same effect.

Re:Details? (1)

tlhIngan (30335) | about a year and a half ago | (#40985469)

We have Letter Grades, A, B, C, D, (E/F) then we need to determine if A is the Top or A+ is the top. Does F+ allow you to pass, or just pisses off the student.
We have Percentages... What percentage is passing... 50% 60% 65%?

In most cases I've seen, everyone keeps track of percentages - once the final percentage is created is it translated to a letter grade. The letter grade doesn't matter - the percentage does.

E.g., just over 50% is required for passing. I won't translate that to a F+, but probably a D-, which is meaningless other than it's obvious you barely passed.

It's usually kept as percentages rather than letters because it allows for easy scaling and weighting, and even drop lowest N is trivially implemented. Or even ignore grade and use final weighted to 100%.

Translating to a letter grade is trivial in that system - percentages can be converted any time to a letter after all. Direct entry of letter grades is quite rare, even then it's usually a mapping back to percentage (e.g., A+ 100%, F = 0%, D- = 50.1%)

Re:Moodle. (1)

hobarrera (2008506) | about a year and a half ago | (#40984583)

Isn't moodle more for teacher-student communication, e-learning, etc?
I think the op merely wants teachers to load grades and be able to print report cards based on those grades, while maybe moodle may achieve this, it's not really the right tool for the job.

Re:Moodle. (1)

XxtraLarGe (551297) | about a year and a half ago | (#40984985)

Isn't moodle more for teacher-student communication, e-learning, etc?

It can be used in that way, but it can also be used as a grade book if you want. The nice thing about Moodle is that it allows that level of flexibility. Just ignore the things you don't want. We have several instructors at my institution that use Moodle only for the grade book, since they are now required to keep grade in an electronic format.

Re:Moodle. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40984723)

The Moodle grade book is poorly designed and of questionable reliability. See

http://moodle.org/mod/data/view.php?d=19&rid=4610

Even if it were well-designed and reliable, Moodle would be overkill for the limited purpose that you describe.

Re:Moodle. (1)

kakyoin01 (2040114) | about a year and a half ago | (#40985499)

Agreed, Moodle is pretty nice and customizable from what I've seen, although there are indeed some rough edges still. Our university recently switched from Blackboard to Moodle and it seems to have worked out just fine and dandy.

Sage (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40983421)

Those who know will get the joke...for the rest of you http://sagemath.org/

Re:Sage (1)

Sav1or (2600417) | about a year and a half ago | (#40983491)

How appropriate that you're anonymous. Oh look at me, dropping hints like that.

Re:Sage (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40985951)

I'm anonymous because I don't have a slashdot account(even though I've been lurking/ac posting since summer of '98) and with my work location doing a man in the middle on any ssl connection I refuse to actually log in to any personal sites anyways.

For every Ask Slashdot, someone always has to suggest the extreme solution. Someone looking to do simple averages for grading probably would be lost using something like Sage. I suppose I could have been the ass that always suggests a commercial tool and said Maple or Mathematica.

Actually, if I got one person to follow the link and learn about Sage and potentially take a renewed interest some math topic I would be thrilled. You're probably some high school kid on summer vacation, so go play with Sage and maybe you'll learn something instead of pissing away your karma points on an ac poster.

Open Admin for Schools (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40983435)

I wrote Open Administration for Schools, along with other school software, since I REALLY was tired of using spreadsheets to do calcs. http://richtech.ca/openadmin

Re:Open Admin for Schools (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40984447)

+1 for OA. Good design and easy for teachers to pick up and use.
Tech support from the author is available.

Re:Open Admin for Schools (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40985351)

I can vouch for open admin. We use it for our schools and have been happy with it. (Systems Admin, dan(dot)garvey(at)batced(dot)ca if you have any questions).

Open Office Spreadsheet? (1)

JoeMerchant (803320) | about a year and a half ago | (#40983439)

Free, flexible, if used on properly managed computers it's secure, skills learned in using it also applicable to other projects...

Re:Open Office Spreadsheet? (1)

i.r.id10t (595143) | about a year and a half ago | (#40983465)

This only applies more duct tape... obviously, they already have a spreadsheet app doign this.... I think the questioner wants more... like a Student Information System (SIS). A quick google turns up several, first result was opensis.com and they do have a totally free community edition... as well as support/hosting/etc. options.

Re:Open Office Spreadsheet? (1)

JoeMerchant (803320) | about a year and a half ago | (#40983583)

If they aren't interested in the results of a quick Google search (certainly easier to do than posting a question to Ask /.), then maybe they're also not aware of/familiar with Open Office.

I agree with the comments posted below, anything you choose will be hated by the majority of users, just for being different. At least OO is still a spreadsheet, a competent one at that, and ticks the "free" checkbox.

Re:Open Office Spreadsheet? (2)

gandhi_2 (1108023) | about a year and a half ago | (#40983753)

SIS2000 is pretty good and open-ended. Our district only ditched it because the teachers union wanted Powerschool back. Primarily because it had an Apple logo on it, and teachers being left-wing socialists, they naturally loved that.

The joke was on them, because during our SIS2000 years, Pearson bought Powerschool. Then we had a couple years of teachers bitching that Powerschool was missing features that SIS2000 had.

Oh, and the pricetag. If you don't agree with spending over 1 million dollars on Powerschool it's obviously because you hate children.

Re:Open Office Spreadsheet? (1)

ArhcAngel (247594) | about a year and a half ago | (#40983575)

Did Open Office get revived? [icewalkers.com] I thought LibreOffice [libreoffice.org] was the newish hotness? Oh, and the set that wants Free as in Beer and isn't concerned with FOSS there is always Kingsoft Office. [kingsoftstore.com]

Re:Open Office Spreadsheet? (1)

mcgrew (92797) | about a year and a half ago | (#40985329)

Most people who want "free as in beer" also want "free as in speech".

Re:Open Office Spreadsheet? (2)

ArhcAngel (247594) | about a year and a half ago | (#40986003)

Actually most people want "free as in beer"...period! and they have no idea what "free as in speech" means.

Re:Open Office Spreadsheet? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40983603)

Now LibreOffice

No matter how well you do... (5, Informative)

Anne_Nonymous (313852) | about a year and a half ago | (#40983443)

...prepare yourself to be hated by every one of your co-workers.

Re:No matter how well you do... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40983493)

This times a million! Change will face resistance.

Google is your friend. (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40983457)

Finding this took less than 5 seconds: OpenGrade [freecode.com]

Re:Google is your friend. (5, Insightful)

polebridge (517983) | about a year and a half ago | (#40984005)

Are you recommending OpenGrade, then?

To you and the others who imply "You must be incompetent because you could have just Googled it..." I'm guessing the OP actually DID google it, and was hoping that slashdot might be more useful than a simple google search.

Re:Google is your friend. (2)

mwvdlee (775178) | about a year and a half ago | (#40984951)

This is Slashdot, where the general motto is "Assume stupidity".
I can only guess at the reason why you didn't know this ;)

Re:Google is your friend. (1)

mcgrew (92797) | about a year and a half ago | (#40985507)

Someone please mod parent up! I'm submitting an ask /. in a few days, I need a good RAT because I'm adding a headless box to my home network. Google returns lots of RATs, but I'd like to know what other slashdotters who've used them, preferably more than one, themselves and can give some recomendations. And I'm sure I'll get a lot of useless "just use google" comments like the poor submitter did.

the problem with JFGI is (4, Insightful)

RobertLTux (260313) | about a year and a half ago | (#40984123)

How do you Google something without knowing what the proper keywords are??

also it may be getting a consensus on what works/does not work/ is painful to use is what is the Big Point in this.

in similar fashion RTFM has two problems 1 Y'all need to WTFM first 2 The Kama Sutra does not cover this topic (but is more useful than what manuals are written)

a better way of saying JFGI is "Google needs |student information system GPL|"

Re:the problem with JFGI is (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40984945)

RobertLTux asked: "How do you Google something without knowing what the proper keywords are??"

That's what separates the great Googlers from the rest of the pack. You have to make some intelligent guesses at what the keywords might be, use boolean operators to group some together with the "or" operator, etc. For example, you might start your search using these terms in Google search:

("open source" OR "open-source" OR free) (grade OR grading) (program OR application)

You can then refine your search to eliminate some terms in the results with the minus operator "-" if you wish.

Re:Google is your friend. (1)

fermion (181285) | about a year and a half ago | (#40986005)

You know google does not know everything, and if you are looking for anything other than an easy lay or celebrity pictures or link farms it is not all that useful. There are a few people on slashdot who don't spend their days eating their parents foods and playing video games, and these people not only have knowledge that is not readily discernible on google, but also have the basis to repose a question that might be of more use to the person asking. This, of course, is what a professional can do. Repose and redirect a requirement to a more productive route.

I don't think any of the answers here solve the problem. Moodle will work as a grade book, but may be more complex that many want. There are a couple gradebooks here that may or may not be useful. What is true is that even the comments that say just use a spreadsheet are more useful than a comment that says just go to google. As mentioned, that comment is only useful for someone looking for a date, and even in that case craigslist is probably the better suggestion.

On the issue of spreadsheets. Spreadsheets are very fragile. They are not very useful production tools to give to people who don't know how to fix and know the limitations of spreadsheet. They will work if you have a very competent person design them, and if they support is there when the luser messes them up.

Build it (3, Informative)

KalvinB (205500) | about a year and a half ago | (#40983471)

Spreadsheets translate to databases which translate to websites easily if you just need some simple software for teachers to use.

Alternatively, I'd recommend JupiterGrades.com

http://jupitersis.com/ [jupitersis.com]

It's about $5 per year per student. Kids can access it from home, parents have their own login. They can see what homework they're missing, how a homework assignment affected their grade.

Sometimes it's just better to spend the little bit of money.

Re:Build it (1)

hierophanta (1345511) | about a year and a half ago | (#40985385)

$5 per kid is seriously expensive. in NY that would cost about $7.5 million in Chicago $2.5 million.

Re:Build it (1)

SecurityGuy (217807) | about a year and a half ago | (#40985909)

Considering cost to educate a student per year is something like $6-7K around these parts, nah, $5/kid isn't expensive. It may not be competitive, in that you can get the job done for less. Then again, NY is the rocket-scientist city that paid something like $600 million for a system to manage time and attendance. $7.5 million could be a huge bargain.

Whatever you want (1, Funny)

mrjb (547783) | about a year and a half ago | (#40983479)

Use whatever you want, so long as you keep the password on a little piece of paper somewhere. If you don't, may I suggest "pencil" is a good one.

Re:Whatever you want (1)

Alter_3d (948458) | about a year and a half ago | (#40983523)

Use whatever you want, so long as you keep the password on a little piece of paper somewhere. If you don't, may I suggest "pencil" is a good one.

Yeah and watch out for Matthew Broderick. He's up to no good.

engrade (3, Informative)

TheSecondUser (2708021) | about a year and a half ago | (#40983501)

engrade.com is free. They make money from buying customer support and added features.

Re:engrade (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40983597)

I used http://www.engrade.com in my classes at the college level. It is fantastic and you can even send a key to parents to view grades. It has many more features for the classroom outside of grading.

Re:engrade (2)

bufke (2029164) | about a year and a half ago | (#40986479)

Engrade is not open source. The OP asked specifically for open source. That said Engrade is a fine program and has a API that could easily integrate with a open source school information system, I speak from experience doing this myself.

You're already using it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40983511)

I'm with the spreadsheet bandwagon. Use OpenOffice. Format the bejesus out of it and use scripting and you can make it look great (even report cards).

Punnet (2)

FridgeFreezer (1352537) | about a year and a half ago | (#40983639)

I can recommend www.pun.net, partly because a friend of mine is lead dev.

Re:Punnet (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40984081)

I can recommend www.pun.net, partly because a friend of mine is lead dev.

pun.net? How did this domain not end up being a site hosting cheesy jokes?

Re:Punnet (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40985853)

>I can recommend www.pun.net, partly because a friend of mine is lead dev.

It's nice that he's your friend and everything but what actual, y'know, features make it worth considering?

Moodle, Moodle, Moodle, Moodle (-1)

MukiMuki (692124) | about a year and a half ago | (#40983659)

Fucking MOODLE. Did everyone lose their gorde when commander Taco left?! M-O-O-D-L-E. It should have been the first six fucking replies. Excel?! Fucking REALLY?!

Re:Moodle, Moodle, Moodle, Moodle (2)

berryjw (1071694) | about a year and a half ago | (#40983759)

Your message is accurate, but your delivery almost guarantees you will be ignored. There really is no reason to be rude... To the OP, you really should be looking at Moodle, or some other Learning Management System. It's not just about the grades, but modernizing how we educate. Keep in mind this is likely a radical shift for your district, but push for it anyway.

Re:Moodle, Moodle, Moodle, Moodle (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40983803)

It should have been the first six fucking replies.

It was [slashdot.org].

Re:Moodle, Moodle, Moodle, Moodle (1)

XxtraLarGe (551297) | about a year and a half ago | (#40985049)

It was [slashdot.org].

It was posted by an AC, and by default most people browse at 2, so it was easy to overlook. I didn't see it when I posted my response earlier either.

moodle doesn't suck (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40983779)

...as much as the big nonfree alternatives, at least ( http:// moodle.org )

however, if *all* you need to do is print report cards, why not LaTeX

Moodle (2, Interesting)

XxtraLarGe (551297) | about a year and a half ago | (#40983785)

It may be overkill for what you need, but Moodle [moodle.org] is open source & has a grade book. You can run it on a USB stick if you don't need to have it available over a network, and you can enroll your students with a simple plain text file.

Open admin for schools (2)

banetbi (459822) | about a year and a half ago | (#40983871)

http://richtech.ca/openadmin/ looks pretty good. It has more features than you are looking for but it definitely has an online grade book and report card function.

Open source? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40983885)

Do you really need the source code, or are you actually asking for non-commercial instead of commercial?

SIS or gradebook (2)

bufke (2029164) | about a year and a half ago | (#40983909)

Are you looking for a school information system (SIS) to store all teacher grades and print reports? Or a gradebook for individual assignments?

I made a SIS in django https://github.com/burke-software/django-sis [github.com] that would let you make spreadsheet templates (with the teachers students already in) for teachers to enter grades and then upload them to submit their grades. It has a very customizable report builder for report cards that lets you edit the template in Libreoffice and throw in some variables and other magic (for student in students: do this).

For a gradebook I'd suggest Canvas. Moodle is an option, but IMO their gradebook is not very good. Canvas can't do school wide report cards by itself but has a nice API for integrating it.

Re:SIS or gradebook (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40985017)

Canvas isn't really open source. The version they host is different from their open source branch, and the open source version is terribly painful to install. Also, their API is shite. It cannot do a fraction of what the Moodle and Blackboard grade APIs can do.

Re:SIS or gradebook (1)

bufke (2029164) | about a year and a half ago | (#40986445)

It's a fair point that they keep a few things closed source - in particular the ability to host multiple schools in one instance. Their install requires basic knowledge of ruby and git which would rightly frighten some people off.

I still think it's a good contender and is for the most part open source. I would agree Moodle can do more, but I think Canvas can do what it does better and is vastly easier to use.

Schooltool (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40983911)

http://schooltool.org/

Drupal may be an option (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40983955)

Drupal is an option, although it is not exactly an out of the box solution as you would need to hire someone that knows a bit to do come configuration for you. I would actually consider looking at the end to end process and see if there is a better solution available, for example a solution which:

1. Functions as an LMS: courses, quizzes, grades all online - easy to use web interface for teachers to add 'content'
2. Manages grades: lose the Excel spreadsheets and have teachers post/manage the grades on the site
3. Administration: provides an interface to manage student registrations including email addresses for parents which could be used to notify them of the availability of a report card, which they can optionally log in to view or opt out of and still receive a hardcopy.
4. Anything else that needs managing, especially processes which can be automated via a web based workflow

I have built a Drupal LMS for a University course I am teaching and it is working excellent as it is much more flexible and extensible than any other options including Moodle. Also, it is important to know that through Drupal roles and organic groups a site like this can be completely tied down and secured for obvious reasons. Of course 'til they make the smart kid in the class the site admin.

Just some food for thought.

Mail merge and a word processor (2)

vlm (69642) | about a year and a half ago | (#40984009)

... just manage grading calculations and printing of report cards. The management of grades is currently done using spreadsheets...

I can see why that isn't working so well. I worked at a place where some rather tabular forms were generated and printed using Lotus 1-2-3, and no this isn't a "back in the 80s" story this was only a decade ago.

A better solution is spreadsheets on the backend, word processor to make the report cards look good, and a mailmerge program in between to shove spreadsheet data into the nicely formatted world proc doc all automated.

One semi-serious question is with the prevalence of grade inflation do you really need to do anything other than list the student name and sick day count, since apparently everything else will be all "A"s?

We're working on this right now! (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40984011)

We're calling it GAKU Engine ["Learning Engine" from Japanese]. It's fully open source (GPL). Along with full school/course/student management features and full interface for students we want to integrate features so schools can easily extend and augment their educational offerings with free/open content and external services. We'll have a Kickstarter up soon too, untill then check out the (incomplete) PR site at: http://genshin.org/en/GAKUEngine

OpenSIS (1)

michrech (468134) | about a year and a half ago | (#40984061)

Six or seven years ago, I worked for a small computer repair company that was providing support for a K-12 in a rural area that was using SIS, and they were looking for ways to save a buck. I found OpenSIS, which they liked (much of the interface was apparently very similar to what they were using), but the folks I was working with at the school level couldn't get support from the district level to change over.

There are different versions, depending on what you need. If you don't need some of the advanced features of it, the software shouldn't cost you anything (they charge for support/advanced features).

http://opensis.com/index.php [opensis.com]

AOO/Libre Office (2)

djsmiley (752149) | about a year and a half ago | (#40984065)

Seriously, you've not pointed out whats _wrong_ with your spreadsheets to help us make _any_ real suggestion.

Firstly your gunning to change a system which apparently works. This is asking for failure.

As others have pointed out this could very simply be a database + web front end, but unless you know _why_ your changing it, your likely to make it worse.

Re:AOO/Libre Office (1)

NEDHead (1651195) | about a year and a half ago | (#40984181)

That would be you're, and you're, and don't flame me because this is an educational thread!!

Re:AOO/Libre Office (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40984969)

"That" is an ambiguous pronoun in this context; to what does it refer? You neglected to put quotes around "you're" and "you're". You combined two entirely independent sentences with "and", which is often frowned upon. Your sig would be better with "were to have" instead of "had".

Re:AOO/Libre Office (2)

glitch23 (557124) | about a year and a half ago | (#40986175)

Seriously, you've not pointed out whats _wrong_ with your spreadsheets to help us make _any_ real suggestion.

There may not be anything actually wrong with their system; they just may want to make it better. People have been quite capable of making suggestions without needing to know what's wrong with their current system of spreadsheets.

Firstly your gunning to change a system which apparently works. This is asking for failure.

The fact the person posted on Ask Slashdot could be viewed 2 different ways, but either way makes you wrong. 1) They could be posting simply because their current system does *not* work and they want an alternative. There is no reason why one should think that wanting to fix what is broken is asking for failure. That's ludicrous. To them, the broken system is what has failed. The other scenario is that everything really does work just fine but they want to *improve* their system to make it more efficient or add functionality that just isn't possible or easily added with spreadsheets. There is no reason to think that this is asking for failure either just because they want to make it better. If that were the case then no one would want to improve anything because they would dramatically increase the risk of failure. Failure only occurs by not trying.

Use Excel or something similar (0)

na1led (1030470) | about a year and a half ago | (#40984077)

I used to teach at a local community college, and I found Excel to be the best tool for grading students work. Once you have your spreadsheet setup the way you like, its easy to re-use with each new class. I created Macros to highlight a students progress so I could show them how well their doing, what assignments they missed, and overall grade. I'm sure you could try using a database like Access, or something like Moodle, but if you just need something simple, and easy to customize, Excel is the way to go.

Re:Use Excel or something similar (2)

Yakasha (42321) | about a year and a half ago | (#40985459)

I used to teach at a local community college
so I could show them how well their doing

ouch

MIT is implementing open Blackboard (1)

NEDHead (1651195) | about a year and a half ago | (#40984161)

I don't know the availability/status, but I know it is in the works since one of my kids is working on it. And they are making improvements, which is good because I have to listen to my wife complain about Blackboard all the time.

Alternative summary (1, Insightful)

edsousa (1201831) | about a year and a half ago | (#40984203)

Lately on /.

Hi,
I have a job to do, but I am too lazy/ignorant/both to do my job or even to use Google. Dear slashdot, will you do my work for me?

or

We are some BI company and we are doing market research on this area. What is your favourite software for/which one would you recommend for this task?

Rinse and repeat...
(to the hell with mod points)

Re:Alternative summary (2)

Cormacus (976625) | about a year and a half ago | (#40985061)

More like:

Hi,
I have a job to do and although I've come up with some solutions on my own, I would like to tap into the wider experience of the /. community whose broad experiences may go further in depth than I am able to go with the time I have been given to find a solution.

In addition, I would like to start a conversation that may be of interest or future use to other people, as they may currently have or in the future have the same problem that I have right now.

Which of course is invariably followed by a couple responses like yours.

Re:Alternative summary (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40985381)

More like:

Hi,

I have a job to do and although I've come up with some solutions on my own, I would like to tap into the wider experience of the /. community whose broad experiences may go further in depth than I am able to go with the time I have been given to find a solution.

In addition, I would like to start a conversation that may be of interest or future use to other people, as they may currently have or in the future have the same problem that I have right now.

Which of course is invariably followed by a couple responses like yours.

And even more like yours.

yes f (2)

isorox (205688) | about a year and a half ago | (#40984225)

$ yes f | ./markWork.sh

Re:yes f (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40986247)

Try Contacting http://www.computerautomation.com/ It's not open sourced but there are powerful tools for tracking the progress of students.

Schooltool (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40984359)

I have used Schooltool [schooltool.org] before and I thought that it was decent enough.

Google (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40984397)

Use it.

Don't turn students into drones. (0)

zx2c4 (716139) | about a year and a half ago | (#40985043)

At the recommendation of another comment, I just watched the demo video for jupitersis [jupitersis.com]. I was horrified. One unified solution for students, teachers, and parents to check grades, assignments, discipline, schedules, and more.

My objection is that there is something to be learned from the good old fashioned way. Students need to learn to write down or remember their assignments and keep track of how they're doing in class by themselves. Maybe that means a motivated student will build his own gradebook. Maybe that means other students will learn to manage a planner. And maybe other less dull students will develop a memory inside their brains. Whatever the means is, this classic exercise of remembering grades and assignments is a cornerstone of childhood education.

And then there's the discipline issue. A screenshot in that demo video showed a nice citation webpage with checkboxes like "[x] gum/food [x] violence [x] talking". This bureaucratic approach only serves to depersonalize discipline and prematurely convert youthful chaps into the office drones that many will become. When students act up, parents and teachers should be aware of it on a personal level, and monitor for any deeper issues that can be dealt with sensitively.

The discipline chart also had boxes for "[x] email parents [x] notify parents on login [ ] notify dean". The automation of informing parents is frighting. There's something to be said about the not knowing if the parents know, when a student gets in trouble at school. There is a healthy guilt associated with it, that can translate into a productive dinner table conversation. It also educates the student's human sensibilities -- he learns to gauge who is likely to inform whom, and at what time, and become sensitive to all the small human factors that make the world go round.

If anything, "solutions" like jupitersis only serve to raise children for a 21st century bureaucratic totalitarian society, which even if this is the state of the world, children should at least have their childhood.

As for the question in TFA, which I believe was about how teachers should manage their grades, each teacher should manage it by themselves. No need to subject teachers to any more needling paperwork. Some teachers like old fashion grade books with the nice rows and columns. Other teachers are Excel aficionados. Let the teacher do what's most organic to his or her teaching style.

Moral of the story: technology is not the solution to childhood education.

The Question and Answeres from 2004 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40985089)

This was asked by someone in 2004 and the comments in reply had a number of suggestions:

  http://kairosnews.org/node/3873 [kairosnews.org]

You Fail It? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40985091)

[klerck.org]? it wiil be amonG around return it

CS101+102 (1)

stillnotelf (1476907) | about a year and a half ago | (#40985253)

This was basically what we did in my CS101 and 102 classes: code up a system to store student records and class grades in C++. Students are objects! Put them in a vector! Put them in a list! Make your own list container class! (No, I am not seriously suggesting you use that software, of course...)

Make the grades Open Source! (1)

Lieutenant_Dan (583843) | about a year and a half ago | (#40985289)

By storing the grade information of your pupils in the cloud, you will be able to leverage the synergies that are generated when this valuable demographic data is mined to maximize educational targets.

After using a SAAS provider you can deploy a multi-functional framework that is based on best practices and LEAN methodogies. For instance, the Slashdot moderation system could be used to have a peer-review mechanism for student performance which would provide one of the metrix in a three-dimensional rating matrix.

Only by crowdsourcing the innovation available in social network can achieve the desired paradigm shift that your instititution despererately seeks,

Which is nice.

You limited your search (2)

autocannon (2494106) | about a year and a half ago | (#40985425)

Your school employer has tasked you with determining an appropriate system for managing student grades and producing report cards. You take that task and the first thing you do is try to find an open source solution? Why? Why is your first step to limit your choices? Perhaps you are looking at proprietary solutions as well, but your post is incredibly short on details and the phrasing of the question does not imply you have done so.

For a program that is going to affect every teacher, administrator, student, and parent I hope you are considering all options. If a problem pops up, you are fully responsible. Parents will be vocal if somehow the report cards get flubbed. If the teachers find the program clunky or difficult to use, they will definitely make your job difficult.

Look, there may be an ideal FOSS system out there for your needs. I just find the notion of limiting yourself to only FOSS systems to be incredibly short sighted and narrow minded. At least let the companies that offer those systems wine & dine you a bit before making a more informed decision.

openStudent Student Information System (1)

gferrie (1111901) | about a year and a half ago | (#40985501)

We use Moodle in all of our schools (Saanich School District [sd63.bc.ca]) and teachers sometimes use the gradebook function. British Columbia currently utilizes an enterprise commercial system which has been bought out and being depreciated. As most of the commercial offerings are, ... well commercial, also filled with bloat, are vendor-centric and cannot react to a school or districts ever changing needs and requirements - we have spawned a new student information system called openStudent [openstudent.ca]. It is based on the Education Community Source license and will fulfil the needs and requirements of British Columbia districts and schools (it will include all of the funcationality teaches require such as attendance, assessment tools and so forth). We are approximately 30% complete at our current velocity and should have the core program completed by January 2013. The softare is being designed as enterprise-based, meaning it would function on a state-wide or province-wide basis - the only software of its type that we are aware of. Something of interest for the future to other jurisdictions.

Careful what you wish for. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40985619)

Several people have rushed to suggest Moodle as the obvious solution to this problem. I have two distinct and largely independent concerns about such answers.

First and foremost, it is unclear to me that the proper solution to this sort of problem must be a monolithic, integrated and gigantic learning management system. The submitter indeed wonders about specific tools, so suggesting something like Moodle is at least a helpful pointer, yet there isn’t necessarily any indication that a comprehensive tool is the proper solution to the problem. If all that's required is a tool for calculating grades and generating report cards, then the proper solution, following our beloved UNIX philosophy of doing one thing and doing it right, should not be a tool that calculates grades, generates report cards, manages teams, permits file uploads, hosts discussion forums, sends notifications through e-mail, etc, all for any number of courses in which registered users enrol. Such a system could happen to be desirable, of course, but the scope of the question becomes a major concern. The benefits of such a system, if indeed they exist, must of course come when applied to solve problems that fall within the scope of their design: one grand unified system to manage all of the institution's academic information processes.

A greater question is whether such a system is ever a good idea, even when much more is desired than a substitute for spreadsheets. I believe our experience (information technicians as most of us are) with opaque, monolithic systems is quite telling in this regard: it's probably a bad idea, and it's probably better to decouple the bits of the problem as much as possible within the constraints of simplicity imposed by a non-technical user base.

My second concern is more specific and perhaps less important. I’ve had some experience using Moodle itself to manage an undergraduate CS course, and it has been less than pleasant. It certainly takes a stab at a great variety of problems: managing user registration for students and instructors, enrolment in multiple courses, discussion forums, e-mail notifications, student teams, time-limited file uploads for turning in assignments, grading, and so on. Most unsurprisingly, though, its solutions are actually rather poor, at least on the version I happened to work with.

Grades, for whatever reason, are necessarily discrete, simple integers. The student and group information interface does not provide comfortable listings or tables; instead, information is split across multiple pages, one for each student or group, with links to assignments they've turned in and the like. Unfortunately, opening those pages seems to be a stateful action, so if, say, you happen to open the pages for a dozen students in background tabs hoping to download each of their solutions to programming assignments or anything of the sort, by the time the last one loads, the rest are invalidated; you actually have to crawl them one by one. This is only an example, of course, of a pattern present in nearly every function Moodle implements. It's extremely uncomfortable.

Moodle is generally ill-suited for any sort of non-trivial use, and programmatic interaction with it is extremely impractical. Querying its database directly isn't too helpful, as it's full of implementation artefacts and redundant data, and the regular interface relies heavily on the assumption that the user will only ever use it within a Web browser, one page at a time. These concerns may not be too important in the context of a high school whose instructors are unlikely to have the technical skills to try any form of automatic interaction with the system, but the fact that it is even desirable says much of its shortcomings.

I do note that I haven't checked whether the version of Moodle I worked with is up-to-date, and it may well be that these issues have long been resolved.

Interaction with spreadsheets is far more comfortable. Non-technical users are typically already familiar with the paradigm, and it's quite easy to obtain the data from a spreadsheet file in a format suitable for programmatic manipulation if you want to implement any sort of automated process for generation of report cards. Free software solutions exist, of course: others have mentioned Open/LibreOffice Calc, and I believe Gnumeric (of the GNOME project) deserves mention as well. A spreadsheet would solve precisely the problem of calculating grades in a simple, expressive and commonly understood manner, and with some imagination, it even generates printable reports; and if that's not enough, it's far easier to automatically produce report cards with data from a spreadsheet used with some common sense and discipline than it would be with some monolithic package with a poor API, or worse yet, with none.

It's still not quite a proper solution, of course: automatic generation of report cards still requires restrictions on the use and format of spreadsheets, and requiring discipline is, of course, asking for trouble. I don't know of a better solution that is flexible enough to be satisfactory; only of this one, yet it's perhaps overly flexible.

Careful what you wish for (2)

Targen (844972) | about a year and a half ago | (#40985717)

[Note: I forgot to log in and posted this AC. I'm not sure if reposting as my user is compatible with Slashdot netiquette canon, but this makes it easier to keep track of replies, so pardon the noise.] Several people have rushed to suggest Moodle as the obvious solution to this problem. I have two distinct and largely independent concerns about such answers. First and foremost, it is unclear to me that the proper solution to this sort of problem must be a monolithic, integrated and gigantic learning management system. The submitter indeed wonders about specific tools, so suggesting something like Moodle is at least a helpful pointer, yet there isn’t necessarily any indication that a comprehensive tool is the proper solution to the problem. If all that's required is a tool for calculating grades and generating report cards, then the proper solution, following our beloved UNIX philosophy of doing one thing and doing it right, should not be a tool that calculates grades, generates report cards, manages teams, permits file uploads, hosts discussion forums, sends notifications through e-mail, etc, all for any number of courses in which registered users enrol. Such a system could happen to be desirable, of course, but the scope of the question becomes a major concern. The benefits of such a system, if indeed they exist, must of course come when applied to solve problems that fall within the scope of their design: one grand unified system to manage all of the institution's academic information processes. A greater question is whether such a system is ever a good idea, even when much more is desired than a substitute for spreadsheets. I believe our experience (information technicians as most of us are) with opaque, monolithic systems is quite telling in this regard: it's probably a bad idea, and it's probably better to decouple the bits of the problem as much as possible within the constraints of simplicity imposed by a non-technical user base. My second concern is more specific and perhaps less important. I’ve had some experience using Moodle itself to manage an undergraduate CS course, and it has been less than pleasant. It certainly takes a stab at a great variety of problems: managing user registration for students and instructors, enrolment in multiple courses, discussion forums, e-mail notifications, student teams, time-limited file uploads for turning in assignments, grading, and so on. Most unsurprisingly, though, its solutions are actually rather poor, at least on the version I happened to work with. Grades, for whatever reason, are necessarily discrete, simple integers. The student and group information interface does not provide comfortable listings or tables; instead, information is split across multiple pages, one for each student or group, with links to assignments they've turned in and the like. Unfortunately, opening those pages seems to be a stateful action, so if, say, you happen to open the pages for a dozen students in background tabs hoping to download each of their solutions to programming assignments or anything of the sort, by the time the last one loads, the rest are invalidated; you actually have to crawl them one by one. This is only an example, of course, of a pattern present in nearly every function Moodle implements. It's extremely uncomfortable. Moodle is generally ill-suited for any sort of non-trivial use, and programmatic interaction with it is extremely impractical. Querying its database directly isn't too helpful, as it's full of implementation artefacts and redundant data, and the regular interface relies heavily on the assumption that the user will only ever use it within a Web browser, one page at a time. These concerns may not be too important in the context of a high school whose instructors are unlikely to have the technical skills to try any form of automatic interaction with the system, but the fact that it is even desirable says much of its shortcomings. I do note that I haven't checked whether the version of Moodle I worked with is up-to-date, and it may well be that these issues have long been resolved. Interaction with spreadsheets is far more comfortable. Non-technical users are typically already familiar with the paradigm, and it's quite easy to obtain the data from a spreadsheet file in a format suitable for programmatic manipulation if you want to implement any sort of automated process for generation of report cards. Free software solutions exist, of course: others have mentioned Open/LibreOffice Calc, and I believe Gnumeric (of the GNOME project) deserves mention as well. A spreadsheet would solve precisely the problem of calculating grades in a simple, expressive and commonly understood manner, and with some imagination, it even generates printable reports; and if that's not enough, it's far easier to automatically produce report cards with data from a spreadsheet used with some common sense and discipline than it would be with some monolithic package with a poor API, or worse yet, with none. It's still not quite a proper solution, of course: automatic generation of report cards still requires restrictions on the use and format of spreadsheets, and requiring discipline is, of course, asking for trouble. I don't know of a better solution that is flexible enough to be satisfactory; only of this one, yet it's perhaps overly flexible.

Student work grading/inter access software (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40985787)

I would strongly recommend looking at the "products" or modules for/with Plone Web Content Management Systems (WCMS).

http://plone.org/products?getCategories=educational&getCompatibility=any

Not only are those prgorams world class - developed for and by educators at various educational institutions - major European and US Ivy League Universities, but also at middle/high schools and research centers. They interoperate with Moodle school administration software as well.

They can be implemented in an "intranet" or via school extranet website, have enviable security and reliability records and are continually supported by the Python PyPi organization.

wanderson@nac.net

I looked into this some time ago. (1)

Borg Bucolic (1342221) | about a year and a half ago | (#40986137)

I've been looking in to this for years. First off, there is no "good" open source grade book that isn't overkill or underkill. Open source grade books fall into two categories. The first type are for single teacher use. They have a shitty interface, in that they don't use a spreadsheet style and limited methods. Many don't make report cards and the like. Others are overkill in that they are part of a larger package (like open admin) that is a pain to install for a single teacher usage. Many others provide things like emailing grades to parents, attendance, making web page reports, and other crap which is problematic when dealing with school districts. There are plenty of good closed source grade books (free ones) that were originally commercial products. Most of these vendors realized that there wasn't any money in it. Districts tend to go with larger packages like "Power School" and others made by text book publishers and the like. For a while, I used TabC Grade Book (which is in java and open source). It was a programming project for a college class and was pretty flexible. It had reporting features that could be worked with, but required a (for pay) java library for some of its operations, but could work without it. After a while, I took the time to construct a well made Open Office spreadsheet grade book that was flexible and simple to set up and use. I wrote macros to output grade reporting (like report cards) in a variety of formats. Setting up the grade book to interface with the OO database makes for nice pretty formatting.

Now, it wasn't mentioned in what context this would be used. If you only need a "one off", go with a commercial "free" grade book. No one will be the wiser. If it is a single school thing, use a web based grade book, there are plenty of free/low cost ones. In my experience, most teachers are pretty simple minded when it comes to grade book software. Most don't read manuals or don't actually spend any time figuring anything out when it comes to computing. They are the first to throw up their hands and say, "I can't use this." Amazing considering, they are supposed to educated and interested in learning.

Lastly, you would be surprised how much easier working with an "old fashioned" paper grade book is. I go to a local store and get a small multi-column accounting book. Do it all with pencil. If a student or a parent needs grade information, you don't have to fire up some electronics. All of the information is right there. It is also highly portable and works across all operating systems (people). Filling out grades on paper report cards is an extremely quick process. Most people are unaware of how much time working with software can use or how quickly writing something down can be done. I tried it for a year, the efficiency was terrific. At the end of the day, I was done at the end of the day.

LearnBoost (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40986297)

My wife and I are looking at https://www.learnboost.com/dashboard from google for keeping track of our kids grades. We home school them.

Ask the students (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40986623)

How difficult can it be to find such a thing? I wrote one for my high school when I was a student back in 1983, in Applesoft Basic. No, I didn't leave a backdoor in it to give myself all As.

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