Utilities to track and manage student data, including a grade database, grade calculators, and more
schoolutils provides a simple, efficient way to track and manage student data. It includes:
- a database for storing information about students, courses, assignments, and grades
- a command-line interface for interacting with the database
- tools for calculating grades
- tools for importing and exporting student data in useful formats
- reports on basic grade statistics
Other planned features include:
- tools for reporting more complex grade statistics
- tools for receiving student assignments via email, and returning graded assignments and comments via email
Installing locally vs. system-wide
If you are your computer’s administrator, you probably want to install schoolutils system-wide. In that case, you need to run the pip or python installation commands below with administrator privileges. On Mac OS X and GNU/Linux, you can generally do that by prefixing sudo to these commands (e.g., sudo pip install schoolutils).
If you do not have adminstrative access to the computer where you want to install schoolutils, or you simply don’t want to install it system-wide, there are a couple of options for installing it locally. The first is to install schoolutils in a Python virtual environment that you control. To do this, create and activate a virtual environment, then run the pip command below. The second is to install schoolutils to a directory in your control which is on the system Python interpreter’s path. You can do that by passing the --user option to the python command below (python setup.py install --user).
Note that if you don’t install schoolutils system-wide, you may need to adjust your shell’s $PATH environment variable to make the grade command available. A virtual environment makes this easy, so that is the recommended method for installing locally.
The easiest way to install schoolutils is via pip:
$ pip install schoolutils
You can also download the package from PyPI, unpack it, and run:
$ python setup.py install
from the package directory.
$ git clone https://bitbucket.org/wyleyr/schoolutils.git $ git clone git://github.com/wyleyr/schoolutils.git
Then run the setup.py script from the repository root, as above.
schoolutils has no dependencies (besides the Python standard library), so the installation should go smoothly; if you have any problems, please report a bug.
It isn’t necessary to configure schoolutils, but it will be faster to use if you do. The command-line interface expects to find configuration files in the .schoolutils directory of your home directory. You should create three Python modules there: config.py, calculators.py, and validators.py. Sample configuration files are included in the examples directory of the source package:
$ mkdir ~/.schoolutils $ cp path/to/schoolutils_source/examples/*.py ~/.schoolutils
The comments in the sample files explain the values you should provide there. The most important one in config.py is gradedb_file, which should contain the path to your grade database file. If you don’t provide this value, you will have to type it in every time you start the grading program.
Once you’ve installed the package, you can run the grading program as follows:
This will start the grading program’s interactive user interface with the configuration you specified in your config.py module. From there, you can:
- Add a course
- Add or import students into the course
- Add assignments
- Start entering grades
A few concepts
The grading program has a few important concepts you should be aware of:
- Currently selected course and assignment
- The grading program has a notion of the ‘current course’ and ‘current assignment’. Most of the actions you take in the grading program depend on your having previously selected a course or assignment. For example, when you add or import students, the grading program will add them as members of the current course. When you enter grades, you will be entering grades for the current assignment. You can specify the current course and assignment in your config.py module, or select them interactively.
- Entered vs. calculated grades
‘Entered’ grades are grades you have entered into the database through the interactive interface. These are the sort of grades you produce by hand: for example, letter grades for a batch of papers that you’ve graded.
‘Calculated’ grades are grades you use the grading program to calculate. Grades are calculated by a Python function that you must provide, in your calculators.py module (see below). These will also be saved in the database, when you run the grade calculation command.
You can use the grading program without ever calculating grades, but it will (hopefully!) save you some work if you do.
- Grade calculation function
A grade calculation function is a function you define in your calculators.py module. This function should calculate the calculated grades for a single student on the basis of entered grades. You should define one grade calculation function per course.
Grade calculation functions use a special naming convention so the grading program knows which function to use when calculating grades. The name should be:
For example, if you are teaching a course numbered ‘12A’ in the fall semester of 2013, you’d write a grade calculation function named:
Each grade calculation function will receive a set of database rows as input, representing a single student’s grades in the current course. The function should return a dictionary or list of dictionaries representing grades calculated for that student. For more information, see the example calculators.py module.
- Validator function
A validator function is a function you define in your validators.py module. It prepares data that you type into the user interface to be saved to the database. This function should accept a string and either return an appropriate value or raise a Python ValueError. If a validator raises a ValueError, the user interface asks you to re-enter the value until you type one that validates. For example, the letter_grade validator ensures that any string passed to it is a letter grade, so that you can’t save a letter grade of ‘W’ by mistake.
schoolutils provides sensible defaults for all validator functions, so defining your own is not strictly necessary. But you can reduce data-entry errors by providing custom validator functions, which will override the defaults. See the sample validators.py module for more information and a list of the validators for which you can provide custom definitions.
To see command-line options available for the grading program, use:
$ grade --help
schoolutils is alpha-quality software. It is offered in the hope you find it useful, but (like all software) it has bugs, so please take sensible precautions to protect your data. In particular, you should backup your grade database file(s) regularly! This is easy, because SQLite stores your whole grade database as a single flat file, so just do it!
As with all Free software, schoolutils has no warranty. Please see the warranty notice in the license file or the individual source files for more information.
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