Preparing a File for Importing Demographic Data

©Copyright 2008, Budd Churchward


Quite likely, when a new quarter or semester begins some of your classes change. It may become necessary to update the roll room lists. The most efficient way to do this is to prepare a simple file of data and have the Import Wizard read it and make the changes for you.

It is very important that this file be prepared carefully. You begin by directing the program you use for scheduling and or attendance to export a file to a spread sheet like Excel.

Next you will use Excel to convert the file to a form that the wizard can read. The prefered file type is called CSV. This stands for comma separated variables. What it means is that if you were to peek at the file it would look like this:

12978,Alexander,Jason,Mr. Jones,9,555-1212,M

Here we see each field of data separated by commas. We have a student ID number, last name, first name, teacher's name, grade level, phone number and gender.

When you look at the same file in Excel it looks like this:

Cleaning Up the Data

When you have extracted this file from the other program you need to open it in Excel and then "clean up" the data. Some files might include column headings and/or page numbers. These all must be deleted. If there are any blank lines remove them too. It is very important that there is nothing in the document except student data.

Next, because the import file will be data separated by commas, you must be sure that there are no commas anywhere in your data. For example if your teachers are listed last name first with a comma between them you must remove the comma.

Here is how:

When the wizard imports your data file it will try to figure out what the teacher's staff code is by looking at the first four letters of the name. If your staff is listed, like our first example above, with Mr. and Mrs. you can use the same technique described here for commas to remove these titles. Don't forget to include spaces that you want removed when you are filling in the Find what: box.

You can speed up the import process and make the Wizard's task more likely to succeed if you remove all the columns that we don't need to import. For example, if you are updating class lists, remove all the columns except the student's ID number and the teacher's name. The student's name, phone number, grade level etc. are not necessary at this time. The simpler the file the better.

If you miss something and there is a blank line or an extra punctuation mark, the Wizard will probably crash and you will see an error message. You will need to review you data file and find the problem then try again.

Saving the File

Once you have cleaned up your data it is time to save it. Follow these steps carefully:

Your file is now ready for the Import Wizard in HLS to collect your data and change your class lists.