Guest Author: Trudy Hutzler
Trudy currently works as a Senior Technical Architect for AT&T Hosting and Application Management, where she provides Windows Server and SharePoint support and administration. She is also a contributing author for the new Mastering SharePoint Foundation 2010 book.
As a SharePoint Administrator I often get asked about adding visualizations and such to SharePoint to add that little something extra to the out of the box SharePoint experience. As an avid follower of Path to SharePoint I find many of the solutions Christophe has provided are a great way to enhance the users SharePoint experience without requiring me, as the Administrator, to maintain a lot of code or customizations on the server. As good as the solutions are on their own, when you begin to combine them and layer them you can create something that is user friendly and visually appealing.
To demonstrate this I am going to share with you a School Site that I created for my oldest daughter who attends school online. Now obviously not everyone will have a need for a School Site to track classes, homework assignments, and grades, but if you replace classes with departments or projects, homework assignments with milestones or requirements, and grades with assessments or performance ratings, you can begin to see where this concept can be applied to many more business related activities.
To make this easier to follow I am going to break this down into several posts, the first few will be an overview of the site and what it looks like, and then later posts will cover how I created each part and tied them together. When it is all said and done I hope to provide readers with a copy of my site, and all the formulas I used. So let me start by giving you the nickel tour.
The high schools in our area are not all that great, so my oldest daughter attends a state chartered online school. We love the way the classes themselves are conducted, but the homework and grade interface is difficult to navigate, confusing, and it is very easy to miss an important assignment simply because it is hidden deep in layers of folders. After an entire year of missing and late assignments and a constant struggle to navigate the interface, my daughter came to me last summer and asked me to help her create a SharePoint site on my development farm I have at home that she could use instead.
What you are about to see is the current version of that site. My daughter would like me to note that all names, classes, and grades have been changed to protect the innocent, and that no actual grades have been used in creating this demo.
This site is created on the Team Site template, and I am using SharePoint Foundation 2010, however most of the functionality will work on SharePoint 2007, with a few exceptions like calendar overlay which is only available with SharePoint 2010.
As we go through the series I will refer you back to the blog entries I used to create each feature, and make all of the formulas available. I will also be adding them to a special document library I have added to the demo site which, with Christophe’s help, I hope to make a copy of the site available to the readers for their use.
ON THE HOME PAGE
The site itself has three main functions; track classes, track homework assignments, and track grades. In this post I will be walking through the parts of the site that we use to track classes.
For tracking classes, my daughter needed to know the days and times her classes were scheduled for and what each teachers fax number was for submitting work she was unable to submit in the drop boxes provided by the school. She also needed to be able to keep control of her schedule by scheduling in time to do her assignments. As parents we needed to know when she was supposed to be attending her online classes, the name of her teachers and how to contact them if we had questions. We also needed to know when the grade periods started and ended, and when there was no school. Most of all we needed a way for busy parents, as well as the student, to be able to track it all at a glance. This is what we came up with.
On the home page of the school site we used Easy Tabs to create an easy way to organize and navigate through the information we wanted “at our finger tips”. Some of the views are for Mom and Dad’s information, others are for our daughter’s use, but it is all there in one spot.
This first tab “Class Calendar”, as seen above, is a view of her class schedule, but to make it even more informative we over laid her schedule and assignment calendar views to give it a more complete view.
Next we will look at the tabs pertaining to classes and schedules. The Schedule tab, This Week tab, and the Today’s Schedule tab show a calendar view of the scheduled classes and events for the month, the week, or for the day. This helps other family members know when she is busy attending her web classes and can’t be disturbed. This actually comes in very handy on days when my other children have no school, like snow days, and they know when they need to be quiet and leave their Sister alone, however you can use something like this to tack meetings, or deadlines, schedule events, etc.
For this calendar we have added color coding so we can easily differentiate between scheduled classes, work time, and holidays.
The last tab is Print Preview click on one of the other tabs that you would like a printed version for, then click on the Print Preview tab and it will create a printer friendly view of that tab, click on your browsers print button to print. Once you have printed out your page if you look at the Print Preview tab it now reads Back to Page. Click on this tab and you will be returned to your regular view.
For us, this gives my daughter a printed copy to keep with her and refer to throughout the day, or a schedule to post of the refrigerator, or just a list of assignments to follow up on at the end of the day, but you can also use this feature to print out pages to add to a report or share with others who may not have access to your site.
We are using the Shared Documents library to keep copies of any downloaded forms, assignments, test, or home work she has written up and scanned to email to the teacher or upload to the Drop Box in the class web site. This way if something doesn’t reach the teacher the work is handy and can be easily resubmitted.
She also has to keep an activity diary for PE, she didn’t want those getting mixed in with other assignments so we made a separate library for it.
Finally for this demonstration I added a third document library to hold text file copies of all the formulas and calculations used in creating this site.
It is in the lists that the real action starts. It is the Class Calendar, Assignments, Schedule, Contacts and Grades that are the real work horses for this site. Since this post is all about organizing and tracking classes we will look at the Class Calendar and Contacts lists.
The Class Calendar is really just the Team Site Calendar renamed. We added all her regularly scheduled classes in as events, and later over laid the Assignment Calendar, which is how my Daughter schedules in time to actually work on her assignments, to increase its impact and usefulness.
Next we needed to track information about the classes, teachers and contact information so we created a contact list. We started with a basic contact list then removed fields that weren’t needed and were just cluttering up the place, and added a few custom fields till we got what we needed.
We kept the usual contact fields like First and Last Name, Phone Numbers, and such. Then we edited the Category from your typical Work, Meeting, Phone Call, etc. to something more school oriented like Teacher, Advisor, School Staff, Student and Other. Finally we added another Choice field and added in the name of her classes.
At this point my Daughter decided she needed a place to keep track of all her other dates and to schedule time to actual work on each assignment. So we created another calendar called Schedule which, since it would track multiple types of events, we made into a color coded calendar.
This calendar color codes the entries by category. When you create a calendar entry, along with all the usual fields like title, location, start and end time, all day event or reoccurring event check boxes you also have a category choice field. The category you choose will determine the color of the calendar entry.
So now you can see how using calendar overlays, and color coded calendars, in conjunction with Easy Tabs can begin to create a very useful interface. This same concept can easily be adapted to tracking projects, deadlines, meetings and other deliverables. And you don’t have to be a code ninja to get the job done.
In my next post I will get into the real nitty gritty of what makes the School Site work when I show you how we are tracking, and scheduling homework and assignments.