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Project feature

Dimensions Education Group attendance marking (MarkIt!)

Project background

Dimensions Education Group requires a staff to mark the attendance for every lesson. Currently it is done on a paper attendance sheet, and the staff had to key in this attendance sheet into the computer at the end of the day. This is double work.

Solution

Transfer the electronic attendance sheet to a Pocket PC in such a way that it will work like paper attendance sheet with automatic synchronization to the main database.

PPC Platform selection

The selected programming language is Embedded Visual C++ 4.0, because it is free from Microsoft and supports MFC for PPC. Though .Net will be easier to develop with and is the Microsoft recommended solution at this point of time, it cost $1688.

Desktop platform selection

MS Access is selected because I don’t want to bother the user with another program just to do the synchronization.

Design

The attendance sheet for everyday and every class will be transferred into files of a specialize format. This file will be downloaded to the PPC and opened with the PPC application. The user can then edit the attendance and save the file in the PPC. At the end of the day, the MS Access interfacing program will read the files from the PPC and synchronize the data into the main database. The user can then chose to delete the files that have already been synchronized.

Implementation



Integration with database

The interface to access to the PPC synchronization module is integrated with the rest of the menus in the database.



The desktop synchronization program

In fact, the whole implementation of the PPC synchronization desktop software is an MS Access form.

User can select which attendance to synchronize into the PPC by the folowing methods:

1. Specify the date, select the clas user wants to transfer and then clicking ">" to transfer that class only.

2. Specify the date, then click ">>" to transfer all classes with the specified date.



MarkIt! - The PPC attendnace marking

The attendance sheets will appear as files in the PPC. The user can then open up the files for the specific calss and date using MarkIt!.

 



MarkIt! - The PPC attendnace marking

The name and Student ID of every student will appear as shown along with check boxes to represent the day's attendance.

After marking the attendance, the user can then save the file to confirm the changes.

All changes will be reflected in the main database upon synchronzation.

Currently, this project is serving Dimensions education group well. However, we do expect changes in future. This is not a problem because MarkIt! is being developed from scratch and no third party library or pre written code had been used.

Challenges

  • Getting MS Access 2003 to interface with RAPI

Problems faced

  • VB 6 in MS Access does not support pointers, which is required to access certain structures in RAPI
  • VB 6 in MS Access does not support UNIONS, which is required to access certain structures in RAPI
  • No VB definition file for RAPI have to manually translate rapi.h which is in C++, in order to gain access to rapi.dll

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