Category Archives: Tips & Tricks

Custom Navigation

Custom NavigationProblem

  1. Teachers want to upload documents for themselves, but Options > Add is not available.
  2. Teachers want to see Student Journal entries across all students…but there’s no screen for this.
  3. Specialists would like a convenient way to see all 504 plans for a school, or across the district.

These are just three examples of what Aspen’s Custom Navigation feature can do to eliminate what previously was either impossible or less than ideal.
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Add Color to Your Fields

Color CodesAre there some values that are stored on the student table (or any table) that you would like to stand out? You can add color to your field backgrounds or text. To accomplish this you create a Data Dictionary extension that can be assigned to the reference tables you want to add color to.

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XML Imports: Insert. Update. Replace?

xml-to-dbAnyone who has worked with XML-based imports in Aspen knows there are two modes: insert and update. Well, technically there are three modes – both is a hybrid of insert and update. The mode determines how the import handles records in the source data file. However, I needed another option for importing medical alerts. Hanover maintains medical data, including alerts, in HealthOffice. Every night, we want to import the medical alerts from HealthOffice and completely replace the existing medical alerts data in Aspen. Insert and/or update modes wouldn’t work because an alert that was deleted in HealthOffice wouldn’t appear in the data file – there was no way to tell Aspen to remove it! To solve this problem we created a new import mode: replace. Keep reading to see how replace mode works and how you can use it in your own imports.

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SSH Multi-File Transfer Procedure

ssh-multi-file-transferLike most Aspen districts, we have several external systems that we regularly need to send files to for various student information.  State reporting, messaging systems, assessment systems, and nutrition systems to name a few.  The standard way to accomplish this in Aspen is:

  1. Create a job that executes the export to generate the data file
  2. Create a job that executes the SSH File Transfer Procedure to send that file

While this works, often times you are exporting multiple files to the same site at roughly the same time, and it would be much easier to export all the files and then send them all together with a single transfer job. For example, if you are using a messaging system to send absence notifications, you might have all your elementary schools sending at 9:00 am. Scheduling an export job for each elementary and a single SSH file transfer would be easier.

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Unique Contact Emergency Priorities

OpeningAre you having trouble keeping contacts in order? Do you find individual students wind up with a number of contacts with a priority of 1 or 0? Use Aspen functionality to force priorities to be unique.

Each contact should have a unique Emergency Priority, but Aspen will allow you to enter the same value multiple times. This can result in the system returning an unexpected result when a report, export, or field set is set to display the higher priority contact.

You can leverage the User Unique Fields option on the details of a data table to require each contact to have a unique Emergency Priority.

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XML Exports with a Little Help from Java

Java & XML

The other day I was working on a new export for Blackboard Connect when I ran into a common problem: of the fourteen fields I needed to export, one of them had special logic that couldn’t be handled via the XML definition. Ugh! That meant I was going to have to convert the entire export to Java. Or so I thought until a little lightbulb went off. Read on to learn how you can use this tip to save yourself from writing an entire export with Java.

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Class Lists – More Than Just Rosters

rosterThe default “Class Lists” report in Aspen displays the roster of students for each section in the master schedule. Definitely useful but somewhat boring. Fortunately there is plenty of potential for this report, especially with the first day of school upon us (or already past in many cases!). Keep reading for a couple of quick customizations you can add to the “Class Lists” report for your district.

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SQL Shortcut: How to use Excel to Create Custom SQL Queries

NoShowSelectedIs there anything more boring than the “gruntwork” of selecting individual records from the list view in Aspen so that you can “Show Selected?” Have you ever clicked 50 records and lost your work when you viewed a student detail page to make sure you selected the right record? A light bulb went off in my head the day it occurred to me that an Excel function could concatenate fields in a spreadsheet to create a SQL query from a list of any length.  Since then, I have used this method to create queries for as few as 5 records, and as many as 4500, based on such elements as local/state ID, course IDs and conduct incident numbers.  This has been particularly useful when troubleshooting state reports. To adjust the length of the query, all that is needed is to adjust the number of rows in the Excel sheet.

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