Later this week, I’ll be presenting “Tips & Advice for district’s moving to Infinite Campus” at the ITEC IT Conference. In addition, I’ll also be presenting “Automating Tasks in Infinite Campus”, which looks at ways to automate processes within Campus.
Here’s a prelude to the “Tips & Advice for district’s moving to Infinite Campus”
1. Dump your demographic data
Yes, I’m serious, don’t import your demographic data. It’s highly unlikely that your current demographic data (families, addresses, phone numbers) is in the exact format needed, nor is it highly accurate. This is the perfect time to dump your demographics and start over with a clean slate.
If you think this is asking too much… consider that Clark County, Nevada (which includes Las Vegas) dumped their demographic data to get a clean start. Considering they have hundreds of thousands of students in Clark County – there’s no reason you should be able to do this as well.
2. Grab as much transcript data as you can.
Compared to demographic data, I feel exactly the opposite on transcript data. We imported only the minimum when we converted to Campus – and then spent years working on getting the older years converted. Get as much of the transcript data as possible and even consider paying to get it all.
3. Just use the product…
Don’t start envisioning how you’ll customize report cards, transcripts, and progress reports. Instead, just use the built in product first. Customizing these parts of the system can be done, but can be expensive and time consuming. Our advice – just start by using the built in reports and features first, before worrying about customizations.
4. Learn to manage the updates.
As with most web based SIS systems, there are updates available every few weeks. This doesn’t mean that you should take every update that is available. In fact, I commonly hear from other districts who claim, “Every update seems to add new features and break one or two existing features”.
Our model has been to only take updates that are needed. For example, we take an update every summer, any update that is required for state reporting, and the a few sporadic updates if a specific feature set is needed. Even though incremental updates might add a few new features, you really have to ask yourself if each and every update is really worth it.
5. Keep your own backups
Infinite Campus keeps three days of backups on the database server. In addition, they copy these backups to their corporate office in Minnesota each night. However, I feel strongly that you need keep backups longer than 3 days. In our district, our HR and finance systems are ASP’d, meaning that they are stored off site – which means that our Infinite Campus data is the most important data we have on site.
Since the system runs off Microsoft SQL, the backup is actually one single file – so my recommendation is to connect the system to a shared network drive and script the backup file to another location and store them long term. We’ve found several situations when something changed or was accidently removed – and it took longer than three days before the issue was reported.
6. Learn to play in the Sandbox
The sandbox is a “copy” of your database system, that also has a web interface that you can log into. It’s important that you learn how to refresh the sandbox with your current information, as well as how to restore a backup file to the sandbox.
We use the sandbox all the time. We’ll use it to build mock-ups of custom tabs/fields and to test out automation scripts. We’ll also use the sandbox to restore backup files for scenarios where staff thinks something is wrong, and they simply want a way to compare their current data with a previous days data set – and the sandbox is the perfect place for this.
7. Don’t turn all the features on right away…
Just because there are a bazillion features in Campus doesn’t mean you should turn them on the first day. Instead, just turn on the minimal features needed. Over time, you can turn on additional features and you won’t overwhelm anyone and you’ll give the appearance that the system is churning out new features all the time.
8. Spend a lot of time reviewing your security groups.
Infinite Campus will warn you: spend time reviewing your security group structure. And they are serious… do it. We followed the recommendation of setting up both calendar based groups and user based groups. We originally tried to create as few groups as possible. However, over time, we’ve had to create more groups to be able to isolate individuals down to certain rights. Changing groups and security permissions can be messy, so spend your time on this task up front.
9. The most important field in Campus is…
Yes, I’m being serious, there is one field that I feel is more important that all the others, and it’s in the grade book and is called… Assigned Date.
For each assignment, there is an Assigned Date and a Due Date. If teachers are putting the same date in both fields, this means the grade book is a “gotcha”, its only used to report what’s already happened.
On the other hand, if the Assigned Date is prior to the Due Date, the grade book now becomes a communication tool with students and parents. In fact, the built-in calendar within Campus functions off the Assigned Date field. Without this information, the calendar is worthless. Be sure to clarify your district’s expectations related to this field prior to your initial roll out and training.