Database Management Systems (ITS 345)
INTERVIEWS, OBSERVATIONS, AND REVIEWING DOCUMENTS
Now that she has the scope of the database, Sharon begins to gather information about the data the database will need to capture and process. First, she looks at the sheets that have been used to schedule tutoring sessions. She also looks at the spreadsheets the supervisor develops for reports and other related documents. Then she arranges an interview with several of the tutors and a couple of students. As a follow-up, she creates a questionnaire for students who use the tutoring services. Finally, she spends an afternoon in the computer lab, observing how students schedule tutoring and how the actual tutoring sessions go.
LOOKING AT THE DOCUMENTS
Sharon has arranged to meet with Terry early in the morning. She arrives on time, and Terry greets her. “Let’s go look at how students sign up for tutoring now.” Sharon follows Terry to the lab. On the counter of the service station at the front of the lab, there is a clipboard with sign-in sheets for tutoring. Each sheet is for one week. Across the top are the days of the week. Down the left margin are times. Tutors mark the times they are available and what topics they are tutoring by listing their name and the class they are tutoring for in a time slot. Students sign up for a time slot. Sharon looks at the sheets. “I presume TT stands for tutor and CL for class and ST for student. Is that correct?” Tracy nods, “Yes that is correct.” “Is this all the information you have about the tutoring sessions? How do you know if the student showed up or not?”
“I use these sheets but 1 also have the tutor’s reports. Each tutor is supposed to fill out a short report form for each session time they sign up. In fact, the reports are my primary source of data. The sign-up sheets are just a check to make sure that I have all the report forms. Some tutors are a little lax about turning them in.”
“Do you have any of those forms that I could look at?”
Terry smiles, “Of course.” She walks behind the desk. “We keep the forms here for the tutors.”
Sharon takes one of the forms and looks at it briefly. “It seems simple enough.” Terry nods. “It is quite simple. We wanted the tutors to focus on tutoring, not on paper work.”
Sharon asks, “Does it give you the information you need to make your reports.”
Terry smiles wryly. “That’s difficult to say. I use them, but it’s certainly not easy to make my reports from them.”
Sharon says, “Maybe you can show me some of the reports you need to make and explain what you have to do to complete them.”
“No problem, let’s go back to my office.
In her office, Terry logs into her computer and brings up Excel. She opens a spreadsheet. “Here is an example of a simple time sheet.”
Sharon looks over the spreadsheet. “You get the hours for each tutor by going over those sign-up sheets and the report forms?”
“I imagine that can be labor intensive and error prone.”
“You can only imagine. I used to assign this task to work-study students. But, no matter how good they were or how much I trusted them, I never felt confident until I had rechecked all the materials. So now I just do the payroll report myself.”
“I think we can make this task a lot easier with a database and a lot more accurate. What other reports do you have to make?”
“Well, one important report is total student usage. For this, I report the total of all sessions attended by students in a term and then the unduplicated count of students.”
“Unduplicated means you only count each individual student once. Is that correct?”
“Yes. We need to know how many total tutoring sessions are attended, but we also need to know how many individual students are taking advantage of the tutoring.”
“Here are three other important reports. The first two charts cover demographics and the third those topics that are most sought after.”
Sharon looks at the charts carefully for a moment and then asks a question: “How do you get the demographic information?”
Terry sighs, “It’s not always easy. As long as the tutors remember to put in the students’ ID numbers, I can locate the students on the school’s Enrollment database. I can get their gender and ethnicity information there. If there is no student number for a particular student on any of the forms turned in, I can usually locate the student on the school’s Enrollment database by searching for his or her last name and comparing that with the classes he or she is enrolled in and the topics he or she is seeking tutoring in. The hardest part is actually the unduplicated counts. I have to manually eliminate duplicates.”
“That sounds like way too much work.”
“Believe me it is. But many of our grants depend on ethnicity reports. We must show that we are serving a diverse population. Here is the actual spreadsheet I use to create the charts.”
Sharon looked over the spreadsheet. “You have to gather all that information by hand? I have just a couple of questions about some of the abbreviations. Does ‘PacIs’ mean ‘Pacific Islanders’?” “Yes.”
“Also what does ‘Workforce Retraining’ refer to?”
“Several students received are identified as workforce retraining. Usually they are students who have lost their jobs and have been given government grants to return to school. Workforce retraining will pay for tutoring for those students.”
“How are other students covered?”
“We get some money from different federal grants. Often these are tied to the diversity of the students we serve. Some are paid from funds at the college.”
“Does the database need to track which students qualify for which funding?”
“No, I can handle that. If I can just get the basic counts and statistics easily, it will make my life a hundred percent better.”
Sharon stands up. “Thank you. Looking at these reports will help me a lot. They give me a much better idea of what kind of data the database needs to track and store. Do you think I could get some copies to look at? I think I would also like to see examples of reports you have to make to your funding sources.”
Terry hesitates for a moment, “I think I can do that-but some samples might have confidential information on them.”
“I understand. You can give me blank ones, or you can black out private information. I promise not to divulge any information that could even remotely be considered private. I’ll even sign something to that effect if you want.”
“That shouldn’t be necessary. I will get copies of the things I showed you and the other reports and get them to you tomorrow. What’s next?”
“Thanks. The next thing I really need to do is interview some of the tutors and, if possible, a student or two to get their perspective. It is a good idea to have some representation of all the stakeholders. Is there a good time to do that?”
Terry thinks for a minute. “We have a tutor’s meeting once a month. The next one is the day after tomorrow at 9:00 AM in Room 301. Would that work?”
“Yes that would work just fine, thank you.”
“I’ll ask the tutors if they know of any students willing to attend.”
Sharon pauses a moment, thinking, and then asks, “How long do these meetings last?”
Terry says, “About an hour.”
“And how many minutes can I use of it?”
Terry thinks for a minute. “I think we can give you 45 minutes of it.”
“Thank you. I will see you then.”
PREPARING FOR THE INTERVIEW
That evening Sharon makes some notes for questions to ask during the interview. It is important that she ask the right questions. She jots down a few questions for the tutors.
Create an interview plan.
INTERVIEW PLAN ???
Sharon looks over the plan. It looks good on paper, but it is a pretty tight schedule. She is going to have to keep close track of the time. She is also worried about keeping notes. It will be almost impossible to both keep notes and facilitate the session. Then she remembers a digital recorder she had bought to record class lectures. She hadn’t used it much because she found she preferred to type the lecture notes directly into her laptop, but for this interview, it would be perfect. Now she felt ready and could relax.
Sharon arrives a few minutes early for the monthly tutors’ meeting. She waits for a moment at the door of Room 301, reviewing the questions and the timing in her mind. She had to make sure the answers were concise, which could be difficult. People tended to want to talk and go off on tangents and accounts of personal experience. Shortly after Sharon arrives, Terry walked up and opened the room. “Good Morning,” she said. Over the next five minutes, several people arrived and took seats. When it is time for the meeting to start, Terry stands in front of the classroom and introduces Sharon.
Sharon stands and smiles, “Good morning. I think the first thing we should do is introduction. Most of you probably know each other, but I would like to know you better. Just tell your name and what you tutor, or, if you are a student, give me your name and what subject you are getting tutoring for. We can start with you.” She points to a young man sitting in the back corner of the room.
Sharon listens as the people in the room introduce themselves. She jots down their first names as they do the introduction. There are nine tutors and two students. Sharon is surprised to learn during that one of the tutors is not a student at the school. He is in fact an MBA student from another school. Terry explains, “Not all our tutors are our students. We utilize people from the community and other schools who want to participate in our tutoring program.” A tenth tutor arrives late. Sharon smiles as he enters and asks him to introduce himself. Then, with a glance at the clock, Sharon begins: “As Terry said, I am working on building a database to help keep track of tutoring. I hope it will make all your lives a little easier. To build it, I need to understand what you do better, and what you would like to see, so I am going to ask you some questions. We don’t have much time this morning, only about 30 minutes, so we are going to have to keep the answers pretty short. I will leave you with my email so you can let me know of things that you forgot about or didn’t have a chance to tell me or any questions you might have. Also, I am going to record your answers on my digital recorder, if no one objects. It will help me to focus on your
Sharon asks her first question. One tutor explains how she figures out her schedule. The hours she is in class are obviously unavailable. But she also looks at the meeting times for the classes she is tutoring. It doesn’t make much sense to schedule tutoring sessions for when the students would be in class. Then she decides how many hours she can devote based on her own class work and other activities. The other tutors nod in agreement. “That’s pretty well how we do it too.”
Terry chimes in: “Tutors can work any number of hours up to the maximum of 15 a week.”
Sharon looks at the students. “Jason, Sandy, how do you sign up for a session, and what would make the process easier?”
Jason looks at Sandy. She nods, so he answers first. “I go into the computer lab · and look at the sign-up sheets. First, I see what time slots are available, and then I look at who the tutor is. If I can, I choose a tutor I know and like. It can be really hard sometimes to see what is available. The sheets can get pretty messy, and it can be really hard to read some tutors’ handwriting.”
Sandy adds. “It would be nice if there were some easy way to search for all the sessions that go with a class and see the time and tutors. It would be really nice if you could look ahead too. I would love to schedule a series of sessions for a month or more, but the sheets don’t go out that far.”
“The next question is for the tutors, and it is pretty specific. I’ve seen the report forms you are supposed to fill out for each session, and I was wondering what exactly you put in the box labeled ‘Materials covered.'”
A female tutor, Sharon glanced at the list to recall her name-Ann, replies: “It varies, sometimes I put a subject in like ‘quadratic equations,’ or ‘ratios’; sometimes I put in a specific lesson number.” Another tutor replies, “I teach English. I usually put down things like ‘paragraphing,’ or ‘agreement’ or ‘sentence fragments. ‘We don’t put down everything in detail, just the gist of what we covered.”
Sharon thinks of a quick follow-up question for Terry. “Is that enough? Do you get the information you need?”
Terry nods, “Yes, I really only need a general sense of what was covered.”
Sharon looks at her list of questions. “This one is for the tutors again. How do you check to see if a student is registered in the class he or she is requesting tutoring in? How about you, Nathan?”
She has noticed that Nathan, one of the tutors, seems to be a bit reluctant. He is sitting with his arms crossed in a protective stance, and his expression is not as friendly as most of the others. He takes a few seconds before he answers. “I usually don’t check. I generally trust the students. We really don’t have a good way to check anyway. We don’t have rosters for the classes, and we can’t really look it up.” He pauses again for a moment and then adds, “I like the current system. It’s flexible and easy to understand. Everybody is familiar with it. I am afraid that changing things will just make it all more complicated.”
Sharon smiles and says, “That’s good to know. I really hope that, in the end, this database will make everyone’s life easier, but you can help keep me honest. If something makes things more complicated as we develop this, let me know, and we will see if we can fix it.”
Sharon proceeds with the rest of the interview questions. She finds out that student IDs are missed because the form is filled out after the session and sometimes the tutor forgets to ask for it before the student leaves. Also, Mary tells her that the forms can be turned in a couple of different ways. They can be left after each session at the desk for Terry to pick up. They also can be kept by the tutor and turned in directly to Terry at the end of the pay period. Sharon also realizes, hearing the discussion, that canceling sessions was going to be a complicated matter, one that she was going to have to follow up on. The two students present are willing to enter their demographic information and don’t have any concerns, but Sharon isn’t sure everyone will feel the same. The one thing everyone would like to see changed is the scheduling process. And, the one thing everyone likes about the current system is its flexibility.
When the interview is over, Sharon glances at the clock. Three minutes to spare. She thanks everyone for their participation and turns off her digital recorder. Before she leaves the meeting to Terry, she asks if any of the tutors would be willing to let her shadow them as they go through a couple of tutoring sessions. Mary Lewis said that would be fine. “When would you like to do it?”
“When is your next session?”
“Tomorrow at 11:00 A.M. in the computer lab.”
“OK, I’ll meet you there.”
Sharon still has some questions about how the students who use the tutoring services will interact with the database. She suspects it will be very hard to get an interview set up with enough students to constitute a representative sample, so she decides to create a simple questionnaire that the tutors can give their students after a session.
She prints it out. She will show it to Terry after her session with the tutor tomorrow.
TUTORS AT WORK
The next day at 10:55 A.M. Sharon shows up at the computer lab. Mary Lewis arrives at the same time. They greet each other, and Mary begins explaining the process. She walks over toward the clipboard. “The first thing 1 do is look at the schedule here to see if anyone is signed up. I also look to see if I know the student. If I’ve worked with them before, it helps me have some idea of what they need.”
Sharon thinks about that a second. “That’s got to be hard. English is a big subject. How do you know or have any idea what a student is going to need?”
Mary laughs, “It’s not really that bad. Tutoring is always tied to a specific class. So, I know what the instructor covers in that class and have a pretty good idea of what most students have trouble with.”
They have to wait for a moment because a student is rummaging through the papers. He looks a little frustrated. Mary offers, “Can I help?”
He looks up. “I am looking for a math tutor.”
“What class is that?”
“I think John tutors for that class. Let me look.” She scans the sheets. “Yes. He has two sessions this afternoon and two tomorrow afternoon. Here. “She points out the sessions on the paper. He signs his name under the first one.
“Thanks. They should make it easier to find what you need. Thanks again.”
“Now I can see what we have going today.” She glances at the paper. “Looks like I have a new student today, a Mark somebody-l can’t really read the last name.”
Mary goes to the desk and gets one of the Tutor Session Report forms. “I always fill this out first thing. Some tutors don’t bother to fill them out until they are due for payroll. That’s hard. It is almost impossible to remember everything.” She enters her name, the date, and the time. As she finishes, she glances at her watch. “Looks like Mark is running late.”
Sharon asks, “Does that mess up the rest of your schedule?”
“No, if I have another session immediately after, I will just cut this short. If I don’t have one right after, I might go a bit long.”
“So you may be working more than you’re getting paid for?”
Mary smiles, “It balances out.”
Mark shows up and apologizes for being late. Mary asks him to spell his last name so she can put it on the form. Then she introduces Sharon. “She’s watching me today to get some ideas for a database, if that is alright with you.”
“Sure, no problem.”
“What can I help you with today?”
Mark is having a problem with the bibliography for his research paper. Mary leads him over to a computer reserved for tutors and begins to show him how to cite different types of sources. When the session is finished, she says, “Well, Mark, I hope that helps.”
Mark replies, “Thanks, yes that does help very much.”
After he leaves, Mary enters the materials covered in the Tutor Report Form.
Sharon asks, “What do you do with the report form when you are done with it?”
“That’s a good question. You can give it to the people at the desk to pass on to Terry, but nobody does that. The desk workers are busy, and it’s easy for them to mislay a piece of paper. So generally we just keep them ourselves until they’re due.”
“It must be pretty easy to lose them that way too.”
“It can be if you aren’t organized-and some of the tutors aren’t. They can have troubles sometimes.”
“Do you have another session today?”
Mary nods. “Yes, in a couple of hours. I have class in between. Let’s take a look.”
Mary goes back to the clipboard and searches through the papers. “Looks like nobody is signed up yet.”
“You get paid anyway, right?”
“Yes,” Mary says, “but the problem is, if over half your sessions go unfilled for a month, Terry will reduce the number of sessions you can offer.”
“I didn’t know that. Is that a rule that always applies?”
“Yeah, it’s a rule, though Terry might let it slide for an extra month if you think you can get business to pick up.”
Mary reaches into her notebook and pulls out a sheet of paper. “Here, Terry gives this to all the tutors. It states some of the basic rules. I am surprised she didn’t give it to you.”
Sharon glances at the paper:
YOUR RESPONSIBILITY AS A TUTOR
• Schedule your availability every two weeks.
• You can tutor a maximum of 15 hours in a week.
• Show up for every session even if no students are scheduled and stay the length of the session.
• Fill out a session form for every session.
• Turn in all session forms on the J Oth and 20th of each month.
Never do a student’s homework for them.
You are there to help them understand how to do their homework: If it comes to my attention that you have been doing students’ homework, you could lose your tutoring privileges.
If you have fewer than half of your sessions filled in a 4-week period, you will be asked to reduce the number of sessions you offer.
“Thanks, this is really helpful I will meet you back here for the next appointment. Just out of curiosity, what do you do if no one shows up?”
“Usually, I just work on my own homework.”
Deliverables (turn in only the following) …
Help Sharon to complete the following section:
1. CREATE AN INTERVIEW PLAN.
2. THE QUESTIONNAIRE
Database Management Systems (ITS 345)