schoolutils / README.rst

schoolutils

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

Other planned features include:

  • tools for reporting grade statistics
  • tools for receiving student assignments via email, and returning graded assignments and comments via email

Installation

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.

Finally, you can get the development version with git:

$ git clone https://bitbucket.org/wyleyr/schoolutils.git

schoolutils has no dependencies (besides the Python standard library), so the installation should go smoothly; if you have any problems, please report a bug.

Configuration

It isn't necessary to configure schoolutils, but it will be faster to use if you do. The command-line UI 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.

First run

Once you've installed the package, you can run the grading program as follows:

$ grade

This will start the grading program's interactive user interface with the configuration you specified in your config.py module. From there, you can:

  1. Add a course
  2. Add or import students into the course
  3. Add assignments
  4. Start entering grades

After that

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:

calculate_grade_<course number>_<semester><year>

For example, if you are teaching a course numbered '12A' in the fall semester of 2013, you'd write a grade calculation function named:

calculate_grade_12A_fall2013

Each grade calculation function will receive a dictionary as input, representing a single student's (entered) grades in the current course. The keys of the input dictionary are assignment names; the values are grade values. The function should return a dictionary with the same keys and values for the entered grades, as well as a new key and value for each calculated grade. 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.

See the sample validators.py module for more information and a list of the validators you can define.

Command-line options

To see command-line options available for the grading program, use:

$ grade --help
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