How to Provide Data
Now you have decided what you want to use the data for, the second question is how to get it from the database to the desktop?
When a report is run, we follow these steps:
- Access the database(s)
- Connect the data together, SQL queries
- Apply filters and process calculations
- Display the results
Access the Databases
In a simple scenario, we have all our data on one IT system. However, if we want to look at how our students interact with the institution, we need to check Student Records Systems, CELCAT Attendance, Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) assignment assessments, Library Management Systems for book loans and Access Security.
Connect Data Together
IT systems have been developed to manage the data in the most efficient way possible. This means chopping data up and spreading it around different tables. To create our reports, we must first reverse this, for instance an event record may have a number representing a department. For reporting we need to expand this to use the department name. This department name can then be used as a filter or be displayed.
Apply Filters and Process Calculations
If we want to know the attendance rate for the History Department, first we need to filter the classes for the History Department, then add up the various attendance marks and process the calculations - maybe as percentages of each mark separately or as groupings. An example of this would be having Present and Authorised Absence combined into a single figure.
Display the Results
There are various ways of displaying the results, as follows:
- Printing the table returned by the query, through an Excel chart
- An M/S Reporting Services interactive report
- A commercial reporting package to a bespoke bit of programming in C# or PHP or even R (a reporting programming language)