SAM Steering Group

Minutes of Meeting held on Wednesday 6th November 2002

Attending: John Buckett, Ray Burnley, Gisela Fischer, Kerensa Pearson, Elizabeth Stewart, Stevie Woodley, Keith Zimmerman, Sue Brooks (IT Services Director)

  1. Apologies for Absence
    Ges Macdonald, Barbara Powell, and Elizabeth Stewart who attended after the first couple of items. Emma Baker (SITS Project Officer) should have been invited but was overlooked - apologies.

  2. Minutes of Previous Meeting held on 24 July 2002
    Minutes approved.

  3. Matters Arising
    JB indicated that he would instruct Chris Austin (IT Services Administrator) to raise invoices for SAM payments from Schools. Action: JB

    From: 5. Feedback from Exam Period, second paragraph: KZ commented that final year weighting should not be associated with modules in the final year, as suggested by RB, but be implemented via Pathways instead. KZ indicated that this was a problem in SITS too. SB suggested that RB liase with Emma Baker (SITS Project Officer) so as to reach a common SAM/SITS solution to final year weighting. Action: RB

    From: 6. SAM Funding for Next Year: SB indicated that she believed the Institute of Arabic & Islamic Studies where interested in becoming a SAM3 user School. RB to contact the Institute. Action: RB

  4. Feedback on the recent Resits, Progression and Registration
    The meeting seemed generally happy about SAMís performance. RB noted that SAM3 had now completed the whole yearly cycle of tasks from pre-Registration, through Exams, to Progression. RB also noted that there was still an issue of Current Academic Year and postgraduates. Postgraduates tended to crossover years with the writing-up of dissertations and theses. RB indicated that he had in mind minor changes to the user interface to facilitate easy switching between academic years.

    GF noted that no indication of Method of Assessment appeared on the Module Registration (Red/Pink) Forms generated by SITS this year.

  5. SAM3 Access 2000 & Access XP versions
    RB reported that he had tried the automatic conversion option in Access 2000 and that the resulting version of SAM3 seemed to run well. More comprehensive testing would be required before we could be happy that this version was reliable and bug free. The same process would be needed for an Access XP version. If the automatic conversion did work well, RB could maintain a reference development version in Access 97 and perform the 2000 & XP conversions for each new release. SB suggested that both conversions would need to be tested at each release. This could result in considerable effort.

    SB then informed the meeting that the University had recently signed-up for the Microsoft Campus 3 licensing agreement. This would mean that keeping a copy of Access 97 on a PC for SAM3 would not incur extra costs. In light of this it was decided not to pursue Access 2000 & XP versions of SAM3.

  6. SAM3 Web Developments
    Ray Burnley demonstrated a pilot version of web access to the SAM3 data, called SAM3web. It was made clear that this was a pilot, no effort had been invested in a fancy user interface. The intention was to show the meeting how easily SAM3 data could be made available, in a read-only manner to, primarily, academic staff, although access could be extended to students too. The pilot took about three working days to prepare. SB suggested a feedback button if the user interface is developed so that staff/students could inform admin staff using SAM3 when data is incorrect and should be updated.

    It was noted that SHiPSS already have a system that displays their Module Templates on the web, the actual data coming from within SAM3. KZ mentioned that SITS currently did not have the requisite data fields for storing Module Templates. SHiPSS also implemented a system back before the Summer for students to give their Programme and Module Feedback on line. SAM provided the student list and their Programme and Modules. KZ reported that it was very popular with the students and the response rate was much higher than previous paper based exercises.

    Many issues would need to be addressed before SAM3web could be rolled-out, including: authentication, access, security, scope of data visibility. During the demonstration SB noticed the use of non-University email addresses for students and indicated that there may be policy changes in future to outlaw non-University email addresses (e.g. Hotmail, Yahoo) for University business. KP indicated that such a policy would have to be effectively publicised to encourage Hotmail, etc. email users to read their University mailbox.

    There are other University wide web developments in the pipeline. The University was likely to extend itís licence for WebCT (web environment for distance learning) to provide a portal site. On the SITS front work was in progress to implement eVision, SITSís web access and portal system.

  7. Technical/Developer Documentation for SAM3
    RB reported that this was ongoing. JB suggested that this was an important issue. RB then volunteered to produce some documentation for the next meeting. Action: RB

  8. Suggestions for other developments
    The agenda listed six items put forward by RB plus the Web development noted above. KZ put on hold Applicant Monitoring that had been suggested by SHiPSS. He was now pursuing a SITS solution to his requirements. If SITS proved unequal to the task KZ indicated he might resurrect the suggestion. The meeting added no further items and indicated the following order of priority:
    1. Enhancements to Login and security to include individual password entry by users.
    2. SAM/SITS Reconciliation functionality. This would re-implement the Reconciliation functionality from earlier versions of SAM to indicate where there were data differences between SAM and SITS. There would be no automatic replacement of a Schoolís SAM data by SITS data.
    3. SAM3 Web Developments, see item 6 above.
    4. Module Diets, extend to deal with Options & Electives, possibly enabling student driven on-line Module selection (for next session).
    5. Teaching Diets, similar to Module Diets but for Teaching Activities, eg studying SML1000 requires (say) a Lecture, an Oral Language Tutorial and a Written Language Tutorial. This would make the setting-up and populating of Teaching Groups in SAM3 a lot simpler and semi-automatic. There could possibly be imports of timetabling data from Scientica.
    6. Mailmerge/Standard Letters, given an "ongoing" status to be developed as when requirements and time permitted. It was noted that such a facility may become essential as a paper-based alternative/backup if students where given access to SAM3web. Particularly so for special needs students uncomfortable with IT.

  9. Life after SITS Phase4
    It was always envisaged that once all Schools were using SITS then SAM would be closed down. The remaining Phase 4 Schools are expected to become SITS users over the Summer of 2003. The general consensus was that SAM should be run in a shadowing mode through to the following exam period in Summer 2004. Subsequent to that SAM would not be required.

    ES highlighted the fact that the SITS training was scheduled over the Summer vacation when many of her staff, who are part-time, would not be available. It was thought probable that the SITS training team would be able to accommodate SML.

    RB proposed that SAM could be run in more of a SITS mirror mode. In this mode nightly downloads of data from SITS could refresh SAM data. Users would use SITS to enter and update data but that data could then be used in SAM for reporting or for interfacing with facilities used in SAM that where not available in SITS.

    SB echoed a view often expressed by KZ, that SAM had a role in documenting and demonstrating Schools requirements from a student management system. Continuing development of SAM was useful in raising the threshold of what is required of SITS and hence is not incompatible with the use of SITS.

    SB proposed a special meeting to look at SAM/SITS Strategy. Suggested attendees: Sue Brooks (IT Services Director), Emma Baker (SITS Project Officer), Paul Sandy or Sue Milward (IT Services Admin Computing), Keith Zimmerman (as a representative for large Schools), Chris Austin (IT Services Administrator and ex administrator from Classics & Theology - as a representative for small Schools), Ray Burnley, John Buckett. [Ed. This Transitional Planning meeting has now been arranged for Thursday 21st November 2002 at 14:00 in the LaTiS Centre, Queens Building.]

  10. Any Other Business None

  11. Date of Next Meeting
    Wednesday 22nd January 2003, 10:30am in LaTiS Meeting Room, Queenís Building. It was decided that ex SAM Schools now in Phase 3 of SITS would be invited to this meeting to give feedback on the shift from SAM to SITS.

______________________________________________________ web-published: R.D.Burnley 03-Dec-2002