Report Card Use Case

Education Use Case

Report Cards

Tag can be used for document automation in the Education sector, to create many different kinds of documents. This use case describes how a teacher could use Tag to automate report cards.

Goals

  • Save time during busy report card season
  • Eliminate copy/paste errors
  • Reuse useful comments
  • Keep it easy

How is Tag used?

The following lists the main steps of this use case.

The starting point for most smart content projects is the desired output. What should the generated document look like, and what kinds of text fragments will be used to create it. A cross section of previous report cards is a great place to start.

Report cards typically have these components:

  • Standardized headings and descriptions
  • Student information
  • Grades
  • Comments

Standardized headings and descriptions refers to all the chunks of text that never change. What school you teach in, your name, room number, explanation of grading system, descriptions of each subject, and so on.

Note that in younger classrooms, report cards may include content from one teacher for multiple subjects. As students get older, more teachers can get involved. In that case, the generated document for one teacher might be just one subject for one student, which is then merged with others to create a complete report card.

Student information (e.g., name, gender) is private and must be handled securely. It may be read from a remote school system, or imported manually using a CSV file.

Grades are also private information and must be handled in a way that is digitally secure. They also may be read from a remote school system, or imported manually using a CSV file.

Comments are usually the most challenging report card writing task for a teacher. Time pressure often means there is limited time for each student. Some comments are boilerplate where only minor changes are made with each use. Other comments are unique to the student and (should) require more time to write.

Some comments are only used under certain conditions. For example, if the student is having trouble with a certain form of math. In this case, the teacher may want to adapt comments from previous report cards (if they can find them).

Finding the right previous report card when you want it is not always easy. When comment fragments are not retained in a place where they can be easily found, knowledge is lost from your classroom and school. If these fragments are retained and easily found, they can be passed on to fellow teachers and make everyone’s life a little easier.

At a minimum, report cards require three groups of data. In Tag that corresponds to three data setup files.

  • Student information
  • Grades
  • Comments and anecdotes gathered during the term

As mentioned earlier, student information and grades may be read from a remote school system, or imported manually using CSV files. These two groups of data could easily be combined into one CSV file if that is more convenient.

Of particular note in student information is the gender field. This field can significantly improve quality when used to inform utility templates like his-her and He-She. This technique can completely eliminate copy/paste errors due to a mismatched gender pronoun.

The grades data setup file might look like the following, if numeric (percent) grades are used.

When writing smart content, you often start with one template that contains all the static content you want to automate (e.g., previous report card). This can be done by importing a word processing file, or copying and pasting from another system.

Next you replace student name and other personal information by inserting student information data. Similarly you replace grades in each subject by inserting grades data.

Next you can make some fragments conditional. As you identify fragments that should only be used in certain circumstances, copy them into named templates and add some logic. For example, you may have fragments that relate to students with high grades in Science (the template name could be “science-high”).

Building on this simple example, you can insert these fragments using a choose/when instruction. A choose/when inserts the first “when” that is true, and if none are true inserts the “otherwise” if one exists. This could look something like the following:

when -> Science grade is equal to or greater than X insert the science-high template

when -> Science grade is equal to or greater than Y insert the science-avg template

otherwise -> insert the science-low template

Another example of dynamic report card content is taken from awordonthird.com.

(Name) makes friends quickly and is well-liked by his/her classmates. In reading, (Name) has demonstrated strength (insert skill[s] here). He/she is encouraged to (insert area[s] of growth needed here). In writing, (Name) has (insert skill[s] here). His/her next step(s) is/are to (insert area[s] of growth needed here). In math, (insert skill[s] here). He/she is working on (insert area[s] of growth needed here). (Name) is (insert impressive social skill here, and add an area of growth needed if necessary). (Name) is a joy to teach!

In this example, “(Name)” is replaced by inserting student data, while “He/she” can be replaced by a He-She template that checks student gender (note that we have many standard templates like this that you can copy from). After these changes, the template would look like this.

The “(insert skill[s] here)” characters (and similar) can be edited manually in the final generated document, or automated further by defining data fields that describe skills.

Tag has great support for dynamic lists using widget templates that would work well for describing skills. This involves creating a list of skills, making each one conditional (using checkboxes in a form), and inserting them using a comma-separated list. The form for Grade 3 math could look something like this.

The comma-separated list that gets inserted would look something like this: “describe quantities to 1000, understand addition facts up to 9 + 9 and understand multiplication facts up to 5 x 5”. The exact strings inserted can be changed by editing the template. The strings can even be dynamic, using embedded logic or data just like any other content.

There are many ways to approach template reuse. It can be kept simple as described above, or made as complex as necessary to suit the teacher’s preferences. The key is to consider it a living document, that you continually add to as new comments and conditions occur to you. Your smart content will keep getting smarter over time.

Tag creates forms automatically to match your data setup files, so data entry can occur as soon as templates exist. By default, only fields that you use in templates are displayed in forms.

Conditional fragments are inserted using if instructions. In this example, a teacher can note that a student often helps others by checking a checkbox in the form as shown below. If the checkbox is true, a fragment that contains this comment is inserted.

Some form controls would be manually filled out, while others could be auto-filled using student information and/or grades CSV files. In this example, grades can be imported from a CSV file using the auto-fill feature.

Once all the data is entered, it is time to generate. Simply click the magic wand.

Generation usually creates a new word processing document and saves it to a file, however it can also save as plain text or other formats.

The generate page also lets you export data. This allows you to create one CSV file that merges all imported and manually entered data for all students in the class.

Benefits and outcomes

These are the goals for this use case.

  • Save time during busy report card season
  • Eliminate copy/paste errors
  • Reuse useful comments
  • Keep it easy

The time savings should be significant for each student’s report card. Using forms for data entry eliminates many manual steps involved in copy/paste merging of data from multiple sources. There is also no more need to search through old report cards for useful comments, or repeatedly draft similar comments from scratch.

The elimination of copy/paste errors is guaranteed for all automated report card sections. In particular, the use of a gender field will eliminate the most common of all errors (forgetting to update a he/she, his/her or him/her).

Reuse of useful comments represents a big win. Once you have given a name to each of the comments that you want to keep, you only need to select them from a list to use them. A good naming convention can go far towards making comments discoverable and easy to share.

The end result should be very easy to use. Once the templates have been written, the time spent on each student is split between entering data and final editing. Entering data will only take a few minutes, at which point the first draft report card can be generated. You can then take more time during final editing (in your favorite word processor) to customize comments and elaborate further.

There may also be school-level benefits if multiple teachers use a standardized process. Teachers could share templates (e.g., for boilerplate fragments) and build a shared comment bank to store useful parent tips and other comments. This would improve consistency in report cards between teachers and facilitate knowledge transfer for new teachers.

The use of easily-edited and automated templates not only increases quality for individual teachers, but because templates can be modified in a no-code editor, school administrators would be able to change the look and feel and standardized content of report cards for the whole school. No involvement of IT experts is necessary.

The time savings and increased efficiency provide another important benefit: more time to think about each student. With less time spent on mundane tasks like copy/paste, your focus can shift towards improving student outcomes, remembering fond memories, and communicating with parents in a professional way. This provides another avenue for quality to increase, in a way that all stakeholders will appreciate.

Once your school’s generated (yet personalized) report cards are up-and-running, consider other school documents that would benefit from automation: Individual Program Plans (IPPs), school newsletters, specialized learning reports (e.g., Leveled Literacy or speech-language intervention reports), teacher adjudication reports, suspension letters and more. The list goes on and on.

How do I learn more?

Contact us for more information about this use case.