There used to be a time when student attendance had to be manually calculated by hand. This was despite the fingerprint machines used to collect the attendances during the start and end of each lecture. The director of Institute of Human Resource Advancement, University of Colombo, Dr Jayakody saw clear room for much needed improvement of this practice.
After getting in touch with one of our co-founders and discussing the problem, a solution was immediately presented. The fingerprint machines were not the most modern models, in that they lacked any form of wireless connectivity. The only way to get at the attendance data was to manually copy the data onto a PC. At this point in time, Dr Jayakody did not want to purchase new fingerprint machines.
This meant that a manual step of copying the data had to be present in the new system. Always up for a challenge, Praveen was already on the case – making it clear that the rest of the system would be highly optimized and perfectly automated that the latter sacrifice would not be felt by the end-user personnel.
The proposed solution was to upload the data onto a backend where all the other processing would happen. The data from the fingerprint machine had the barebones information only: the student ID, date, clock-in time and the clock-out time. The proposed system had to determine every other aspect; from determining if the student was late all the way to determining which subject the student had depending on their course and day of the week. Praveen was hell bent on making the system nothing short of perfect – the algorithms were complicated but efficient. The final outcome was as expected – the fingerprint data had only to be uploaded. Within a minute of uploading, the required reports could be downloaded. The system allowed the retrieval of different types of reports – an overview report for the director and individual reports for the students.
Praveen decided to go a step further – integration with the learning management system. As an added feature of the new system, the students could now view their individual attendance from their LMS.
The new system performed a series of trial runs on a small set of courses. During this trial run, input from the staff helped us to create and produce a practically sound system.
A sound system vs. a practically sound system
It is quite easy to design a system that works perfectly under the optimal conditions. Utilise such a system where a majority of the algorithms depend on the behaviour of people and you’ll quickly see the system crumble like the anecdotal cookie.
The problem lies in the ‘behaviour of people’ – people’s behaviour cannot be modified the same way computer programs do (obviously). We comprehended that rather than adapting the people to the new system, the system should work in a way that requires minimal amount of change on the people’s side.
After this first trial run, the system underwent modification with additional features to address these pain points. This was a major turning point for the team – creating a practical system (in contrast to a MVP) is always the way to go. Such in-depth understanding of the end-user was thanks to the level of communication with the end-user; not just the IT staff but the staff who would actually use it.
The OrpheusHQ crew unveiled the system after providing the staff with a short training session! Yet another workplace inefficiency corrected accordingly by the Team. The system significantly reduced the time needed to make these reports while providing additional benefits for the management staff and the students.