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Building An Automated Record System : Back to Home National Forum on Education Statistics
Introduction Purpose of this Booklet Contents of this Booklet Description of a Student Record Description of a Student Record System Benefits of a Well-Designed Automated Student Record System Steps for Designing and Implementing an Automated Student Record System Summary Resource List
Step 1Step 2Step 3Step 4Step 5Step 6Step 7Step 8Step 9Step 10Step 11Step 12

Select a physical design that meets the needs of the users to get easy access and conduct analyses.

Step 6 : Determine the physical design of the student record system

Data can be stored in many ways, ranging from hand-written paper documents, to microfilm or microfiche, to electronic data files on computer tape, removable disk (diskette), hard drive, or CD-ROM. A student record system could use any or all of the available media if it is feasible to link or access each type of medium. However, the most efficient student record systems have as much data as possible entered into a computer system, and the data are available online to those with a need to have access.

Several considerations are important in the selection of how your student data will be stored and accessed. These include the number and size of records, space available for storage, the permanency of the records, and the cost of storage. Cost has at least three components: the cost of entering the data or exchanging them between media; the cost of purchasing the components of the storage system, such as filing cabinets, computer disks, microfilming equipment, etc.; and the costs associated with ongoing maintenance, operation and training. Technical advances in computer data entry, storage, and retrieval are developing quickly, making these aspects of student records management less expensive, more efficient, less demanding of physical space, and more accessible to multiple users.

To identify the most efficient automated system for your student records, you will need to consider three things: software, hardware, and networks. Some of the important issues you will need to consider for these three areas are described below.

Step 6a. Select software.

Perhaps the most critical decision you will have to make is what software you will use, because software requirements generally determine what computer hardware you will need. You will need to determine if you can purchase off-the-shelf software or will need to have custom software developed to meet your needs. A careful review of existing software packages should be conducted before deciding that a custom solution is needed. The decision you make about software should be based on both your needs assessment and a consideration of several other things.

Some Questions to Consider When Deciding on Software
Questions Answers
1. If you are a school or district, has a higher authority specified that you must use specific approved software? Some districts require all schools to use the same software package because there is a district package that can link the software for exchanging records within the district. Some states have approved only certain software packages because they support state reporting requirements. Also, you may be able to purchase software at a discount if you go in with other schools or districts.  
2. Is there a service bureau that can manage your student records for you? If you are a small school or district, it may be possible to hire a company to manage your student records. Cooperative agencies and regional service centers provide this type of support to school districts in some states.  
3. Do you have other types of administrative or instructional software that you want to be able to link with your student software for analytical purposes? If so, you will want to look at the standards used by the software, such as SIF (School Interoperability Framework) and ODBC (Open Data Base Connectivity).  
4. Does the software package under review restrict what data you may enter, or does it provide for user-defined fields? It is important to ensure that all of the data you want to maintain on students can be housed within the software and in the format that you desire or that is required for reporting to the state or federal government.  
5. Does the software package you are reviewing offer the reporting and analytical capability that you need? Many student record system software packages offer state reporting capability, albeit at a price. There are many advantages to having standard reports produced automatically by the software. Reporting requirements will be discussed more in Step 12.  
6. Does the software package you are considering receive high ratings from current users? What types of support are available from the software provider?  

Look for ways to build on the experiences of other organizations to improve your chances of obtaining an effective solution.

Step 6b. Choose hardware.

As mentioned above, if you are planning to buy hardware for your student record system, it is best to wait until you have identified the software solution you will be using. If, however, you will be restricted to using hardware that you already have, it is important to inventory your hardware, including the memory and storage capability that will be available to the student record software.

Step 6c. Design your network.

Chances are, you are planning to give quite a few people access to the student record system, including counselors, principals, teachers, registration clerks, and others. To do this efficiently, you should make the system available via a network. As you are planning for your system, you should consider what networking capabilities you currently have, and what networking capabilities you will need. If you currently have an open network, you may need to add security measures to ensure that unauthorized users cannot have access to student records. This is discussed more in Step 9.

The adoption of electronic means for maintaining student records is a big step for schools and districts that have been maintaining only paper records. However, it is a step worth taking, since computer files provide for more monitoring and analytical capability. Recent improvements in computer technology have resulted in huge amounts of memory being available in relatively low-cost machines. To obtain more specific assistance with the decision-making required for buying and implementing a technology solution for student record systems, you will want to refer to Technology @ Your Fingertips, a document designed for persons charged with making technology decisions in education organizations.

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