There are plenty of canned applications available to handle the student registration application processes for public school systems, and many can be extended and customized to meet the needs of the system. But, when a technical high school explained their special requirements to the IT department of one of our local school systems, it was obvious that customizing the canned solution would be prohibitively expensive. The technical high school struggled to manually handle the annual registration of roughly two thousand students, using spreadsheets and various reviews of each student’s past performance using disparate systems. The process was painful, and something needed to be done.
As I walked the school through their pain points, documented their registration process in Visio, and began to document all of the information that was required to admit a student, the registrar produced an InfoPath form that she had begun to develop. It looked great, and she had put a lot of thought into it. I asked, “What if I could allow students to fill this out as a web form, and then when you reviewed the form, I could populate it with the various attendance data, earned credits by subject, grade averages, discipline incidence, etc.?” Everyone in the meeting literally lit up at the idea!
With the excellent help of a data analyst in the schools system’s IT department, within days I had eleven stored procedures that produced all of the data that was involved in the decision process. There is a maximum of five roles involved, including ESOL Teachers, Special Needs Teachers, Counselors, the Assistant Principal, and the Registrar, so it was fairly easy customizing the form to display only the appropriate information for each role. Finally, to make the whole process work, I developed a SharePoint Designer workflow to change the status of the process, based on data in the form, and to send descriptive emails with links to the relevant form to review to each of the roles, as their involvement was needed.
Other than a few dozen lines of C# to help with the student data fetching, the entire solution was built using out-of-the-box InfoPath and SharePoint Designer features, which will make future updates easy for the IT department. The managed code shouldn’t really change over time.
When we showed the demonstration a couple of weeks after that first meeting, you could feel the joy in the room! In the first weeks of school registration applications, some “nice-to-have” features were identified and the requests were quickly approved, so we were able to further improve the process. Not all project requirements are met so nicely into the out-of-the box features of InfoPath and SharePoint, but when they do, like this one did, the return on investment can be dramatic.