STEMS - Frequently Asked Questions

STEMS Availability:

  • Q: Is STEMS available for Apple Macintosh computers?
    A:
    No.  STEMS has been designed to work with Windows computers running Windows 98 or later.  Apple Macintosh computers using a third-party Pentium emulator such as Virtual PC or Real PC may be able to successfully run STEMS, but technical support for this will not be provided.  The are currently no plans to develop a specific Apple Macintosh version of STEMS.  While the NSW Department of Education & Training is a dual-platform environment in education, it is single-platform in administration.

  • Q: Will STEMS run in a multi-user environment across a computer network?
    A:
    Yes, STEMS has been designed to work across various computer networks, fully installed on a server, with just a small stub of support files installed on each workstation.  STEMS can support multiple users accessing and entering data into the database simultaneously.

OASIS and STEMS:

  • Q: STEMS relies on consistent OASIS data entry across schools.  What specific OASIS guidelines should be followed?
    A:
    A common problem with OASIS data entry in schools relate to the "Given Names" and "Preferred Name" fields in Student Details.  The Given Names field should contain all given names, first and middle names.  The Preferred Name field should contain the name that the student prefers to be called by.  For example, the Given names may be "Johnathan Michael Patrick", but the Preferred name may be "John".  In the case of some Asian students, an Anglicised name may be preferred - for instance, the Given name may be "Xiaotong", but the Preferred name may be "Ruby".  It is essential that EVERY student enrolled in OASIS have a name in the Preferred Name field.  It is important that all care be taken when entering enrolment data into OASIS.  This will ensure accuracy of enrolment data within STEMS.

  • Q: New students have enrolled at our school since we first exported data from OASIS and imported it into STEMS.  How do we go about creating new STEMS records for these new enrolments?
    A:
    The OASIS Export/Import procedure has been designed to be a non-destructive, repeatable process.  Whenever your enrolments change, simply re-run the export/import process to create new blank STEMS records for new students.  Existing students are identified by the combination of their surname, given names and their date of birth.

  • Q: What happens to the STEMS records of students that have left the school?
    A:
    The same OASIS export/import procedure has been designed to look for student records in STEMS that are no longer shown in OASIS (i.e. the student has left the school).  This procedure will automatically place the STEMS record for these students who are no longer enrolled at the school into the STEMS Archive.  Each of these records will be marked with the date that they were archived, and their content will be frozen to ensure no further modification is possible.  A leaving student's new school may then request the details of the student's STEMS record, and it can be easily retrieved and printed off from the STEMS archive.

  • Q: If STEMS identifies a student by their surname, given names and date of birth, what happens to their STEMS record in the case of a surname change, such as can occur through parental marriage? 
    A:
    At present, when the OASIS export/import procedure is run and a student currently in STEMS has had one of their names changed, STEMS will not correctly identify them as being the same person.  As a result, that student will have a new, blank STEMS record created for them, and their old STEMS record will be relegated to the STEMS archive.  It will be necessary to print off the old record from the archive and re-enter the STEMS data into the new STEMS record.  There is presently no automatic transfer of this record available. STEMS 2008 and later also uses the new ERN student IDs allocated to each student.

  • Q: How often should the OASIS Export/Import procedure be run?
    A:
    It should be run as often as enrolments change at your school, to ensure every enrolled student has a STEMS record.

The STEMS Photo Studio:

  • Q: What is the STEMS Photo Studio?
    A:
    It is a utility built into STEMS which allows schools to very quickly take photos of each of their students and attach them automatically to each student's STEMS record, displaying the correct photo whenever a student's record is retrieved.  This aids in the quick identification of student records.  With the STEMS Photo Studio, it is possible to take photos and attach them to STEMS at the rate of two students per minute.

  • Q: What types of cameras will work with the STEMS Photo Studio?
    A:
    Virtually any USB WebCam will work.  Recommended WebCams include the Logitech Express WebCam (approx $70) and the Swann VersaCam Mini (approx $65).  Both of these colour WebCams offer up to 640x480 (VGA) resolution, making them useful for other applications within the school.  Less expensive cameras are available, offering lesser resolution, and these are still suitable as STEMS only takes 160x120 resolution photographs.  Newer Firewire (IEE1394) web cameras may also work, but have not been extensively tested.  The minimum requirement is that they must be "Video for Windows" compatible.

  • Q: If the school does not possess a WebCam, can any other digital camera be used with STEMS?
    A:
    The advantage of using the STEMS Photo Studio instead of taking photographs separately from the STEMS application is that each photo is automatically sized and attached to each student's STEMS record.  With the STEMS Photo Studio, it is possible to take student photos at the rate of two per minute, and no separate processing of the images is required as would be the case with the use of other digital cameras or scanned photographs.  For less than $100, a suitable web camera can be purchased and the full benefits of the STEMS Photo Studio can be realised.  This camera can also be used for the EduWeb Photo Studio for those schools running Stu's EduWeb.

  • Q: Is it imperative that schools have one of these web cameras?  Will STEMS still run without using student photos?
    A:
    Of course STEMS will work without a camera! But the efficiency gains for staff by knowing exactly which student's record they are looking at or working with by seeing a small photo on screen with the record are enormous.  The web camera will pay for itself very quickly.  You also only need one webcam in the school, not one for each STEMS workstation.

  • Q: How should we go about setting up our STEMS Photo Studio?
    A:
    All that is required is a STEMS workstation with a web camera connected, located in a suitable area where students can be brought to in groups to have their photos taken.  A stool should be setup in front of a plain backdrop, positioned such that there will be little movement of the camera required for framing purposes.  The stool should be as close as necessary to the camera to enable a "head-shot" only (around one metre).  It may be necessary to consider using a lamp to provide extra light on the student.  Avoid any light from behind the student.  Consider photographing students of similar age groups together.  This way there shouldn't be major adjustments of camera position between shots due to vast differences in height.  Remember to call up each student's STEMS record in the database BEFORE taking their photograph.

  • Q: The photo taken for a student is blurry, or the eyes are closed.  Can you take the photograph again?
    A:
    Definitely!  You can click the "Take Photo" button as many times as you like until you are satisfied with the photo.  You can also replace "old" photos each year if you like.  Hovering the mouse over the photo in STEMS will show you the date the photo was taken.

  • Q: The Preview video image is too dark or too bright.  How do you adjust the picture?
    A:
    First consider the lighting of the student as well as the room lighting.  Then click the Image Properties button to call up the properties window.  You should move the properties window so that you can see the Preview video frame that it has covered.  Once you can see both the properties window and the Preview video frame on the screen at the same time, adjust the brightness, contrast and colour sliders until the preview video is acceptable.

  • Q: I have just taken a photo of a student, but the record shown in STEMS was not the correct student.  As a result, I have a STEMS record with the wrong photograph.  What should I do?
    A:
    Easy. You will need to get both students into your STEMS Photo Studio, call up the first student's STEMS record, take his/her photo.  Then change the STEMS record to the second student and take their photo.

  • Q: Is the student's photo transferred to the Regional Office at the end of year 6?
    A:
    No. Neither the Regional office nor high schools receive student photos from primary schools, however, high schools do have access to the STEMS Photo Studio and will be able to take their own photos of students once they have enrolled.

Entering Data into STEMS:

  • Q: Do you have to completely finish off one student's STEMS record before you can work on another student's record?
    A:
    No, you can enter data into any panel in STEMS in any order. You can Save the changes to the record, then call up another student's record and work with it.  You can go back to the previous student's record and make more changes at a later date if needed.  Just remember, you MUST click the Save Changes button if you entered information BEFORE you change to another student's record, otherwise, your changes will be lost.  Many schools will want to enter selective data for each student by the data type in one go.  For example, they may want to complete the Support Profile panel for all students, then move onto the Academic Profile panel and so on.

  • Q: We are entering data into the K-6 STEMS Tracking panel, but after each record is Saved and we move onto the next student, their K-6 panel always moves behind the main STEMS window.  Is there some way to stop this from happening?
    A:
    Yes, choose "Keep K-6 Tracking Panel On Top" from the Primary Schools Menu.  This way, when you change student records, the K-6 Tracking panel will always be shown on top of the main STEMS window.

  • Q: The "Attendance at School" field contains Excellent, Satisfactory, Explained, Unexplained and HSLO as options.  What are the differences between each of these?
    A:
    Firstly, this field is more used to provide an overview of a student's general attendance at school over a longer period of time.  'Excellent' means attendance across the this time period or over the whole year has been very high - perhaps none to three days off-school each Semester.  'Satisfactory' means attendance has been less than excellent, but absences are at a level that are not a particular cause for concern, perhaps up to ten days per semester.  'Explained' means the student has missed a significant amount of school over the year, which will probably impact on their performance at school, but the absences were always covered by a parental note.  This may include chronic illnesses or overseas trips.  'Unexplained' means the student has missed a significant amount of school over the year, which will probably impact on their performance at school, and a large proportion of the absences were not covered by parental notification.  Each of these last two descriptors point to unsatisfactory attendance. 'HSLO' means that the student's absences from school have been serious enough to involve intervention by the School Education Area Home-School Liaison Officer.

  • Q: Is it necessary to specify the student's high school in STEMS before they have decided which high school they will attend (in late year 6)?
    A:
    It is not necessary to specify the high school until the child is in year 6, however, for planning purposes, some high schools may wish to know the number of possible students they will be receiving in the future, and by specifying a student's designated public high school, reports can be produced easily.  It is recommended that you specify a student's designated high school in their STEMS record at the earliest possible convenience.  Towards the end of year 6, every student's actual high school will need to be entered.

  • Q: How do you specify a non-government school for a year 6 student?
    A:
    In the HS Region field, choose "N/A", then choose the type of high school they will attend from the High School field.  There is no need to specify the name of the non-government school.  It is also possible to select "Interstate/Overseas" for students leaving NSW.

  • Q: We have a student who is repeating year 6.  How do we specify that instead of their nominated high school?
    A:
    In the HS Region field, choose "N/A", then choose "Repeating Year 6" from the High School field.

Transferring STEMS Data to the Regional Office:

  • Q: What is the process for transferring year 6 student data to the Regional Office?
    A:
    In a Region-wide system, the timeline for the transfer of data will be developed and promoted by the Region.  It is imperative that the timeline be adhered to by all K-6 schools to ensure that all year 6 data is transferred to the Regional office by the specified date.  All year 6 data entry MUST have been completed, including selection of the nominated high school.  In order to perform the transfer, the STEMS workstation must be connected to the school's local area network and must be capable of accessing the NSW DET Intranet using Windows Explorer.  A password is required to initiate the transfer of year 6 data, and this password will be provided to all schools by the Regional Office.  Choose the "Automatically Send Year 6 Data to Regional Office" option from the Primary Schools menu and within seconds, the data will have been transferred.

  • Q: We have transferred our Year 6 data already, but some students have since changed their nominated high school.  What do we do?
    A:
    If the final date for the Regional office transferring data to high schools has not yet passed, simply make the changes and transfer the data again.  If the final date has passed, contact the Regional Office for advice.  These students' records will have been sent to the wrong high school automatically, but will also be removed automatically when it is discovered that the student has not been enrolled in OASIS.  The correct high school will be able to contact the feeder primary school to obtain a printed copy of the student's STEMS record from the Primary School's archive.

  • Q: What K-6 STEMS data is transferred to the Regional Office?
    A:
    Only year 6 student data is transferred.  The main STEMS window containing four data panels is transferred only.  The separate K-6 tracking form, the Student Accident and Miscellaneous Information Registers and the student photograph for each year 6 student are NOT transferred.  These are retained by the Primary school only.

  • Q: Some of our year 6 students are going to other Regions (or Non-Government schools) that currently don't use STEMS.  What should we provide them?
    A:
    Most high schools send a paper transition form for schools to fill out.  It is suggested that instead of completing the form, you simply print out the student(s) STEMS record and pass that on.  That way, there is no recreation of existing student data.

High Schools Preparing for STEMS:

  • Q: Our high school will be enrolling year 6 students from Regions not currently using STEMS.  How can we get their student transition data so it will be compatible with STEMS?
    A:
    The easiest thing to do is print out the STEMS Data Entry form available as a download on the Instructions page and pass a copy onto each school in other Regions that are providing students to your school.

 

The School Transition Enterprise Management System
 is designed and developed by: 

Stuart Hasic - stuart.hasic@det.nsw.edu.au

2002-2009 by Stuart Hasic.  All rights reserved.