This is the third of the five part series on ICT applications.  We will see the use of computers in school management systems, online seat bookings in theatres and cinemas, use of ATMs, internet banking, telephone banking, chip and PIN cards, bank cheque clearing, Electronic Fund Transfer (EFT).

List out various school management systems that are used in schools.

Schools have to manage a number of different tasks in the day-to-day running of the school. These include:

  1. Registration and attendance records of the students
  2. Student performance
  3. Organisation of school exams both internal and external
  4. Creation of timetables
  5. Teacher substitution, when teachers are absent due to illness or training.

How can computers be used in school registration and attendance of students?

In the traditional way, recording of registration and attendance of a student was through daily registers. This was very time consuming as it required a 10 minute session at the beginning and end of each day. It was also prone to errors if a student's name was missed at some point during the registration process.

Using hardware and software, there are now number of ways of automating the registration process, two of which are explained below:

Method 1

Each student is issued an ID card. This card contains a magnetic stripe on the rear of the card. The student would have to sign the card and also write his unique student ID on the back of the card. The magnetic stripe would contain the name of the school, the name of the student, the student's date of birth and their unique ID or registration number.

Each morning when the students arrive at the school they have to swipe their ID card through a magnetic card reader. The data read would identify the student and the time and date they entered the school's premises. This data is stored in a database. Before leaving the school, which could be either at lunchtime or at the end of the day, the ID card has to swiped again. This would now record the leaving time and date in the database. This gives a very comprehensive record of when the student attended the school and the number of hours they attended. It would also be a more secure method in the event of, say, a fire. The school would now be able to account for every student currently showing as being present on the school premises. Using the paper-based system, a student could register then just go home - with this ID card system, the student's attendance would be known at all times.

This could be further fine tuned such as

  1. Use of a PIN to stop another student swiping in with the wrong card
  2. Use of GPS tracking so the exact whereabouts of a student would be known. This would require the addition of a chip in the ID card so that the tracking system could identify them.

At the end of a term or school year, the database could be queried and it would give an accurate attendance record for the student.

Method 2

A second method could make use of biometrics. Each student would have their fingerprints taken. Their personal details plus fingerprints would be stored on a database. When a student enters the school premises, they would be asked to put their hand on a scanner which would read their fingerprints. Since each student would have unique fingerprints, this system would be very secure. As with method l, the date and time of entering or leaving the school would be accurately recorded in the database.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of computerised school registration and attendance systems?

The following are the advantages of computerised school registration and attendance systems:

Advantages

  1. Fingerprints being unique, it is impossible for a student to sign in pretending to be someone else. This gives more accurate data and improved security. With magnetic cards, a student could give his card to a friend and ask him/her to sign in for him/her.
  2. As fingerprints are 'part of you' they cannot be lost like ID cards.
  3. ID cards could be affected by magnetic fields, e.g. by being placed close to a electric coil or magnet, which would stop them from working.
  4. It is much easier to 'clone' or make copies of ID cards than it would be to copy fingerprints, though not impossible but very difficult.

Disadvantages

  1. It is a long, slow and time consuming process to collect the fingerprints of all the students in the school.
  2. The equipment needed to take and read fingerprints is more expensive than magnetic stripe reading equipment.
  3. The fingerprint may not be identified by the system, if a student cuts a finger, thereby preventing entry to the school.
  4. Some parents may object to having the fingerprints of their children stored on a database. as there are concerns on 'invasion of privacy'.

How can spreadsheets be used to track Student performance?

This topic is covered in Effects of using ICT (Spreadsheets) in detail.

How can computers or computer software be used to make exam timetables, subject timetables and teacher substitution plans?

Timetables are often required for the following:

  1. Exams scheduling, both internal and external
  2. Subject scheduling
  3. Producing cover/substitution plans for teachers who are absent.

When producing timetables for each student, many factors have to be taken into account namely:

  1. Availability of rooms for each subject.
  2. Availability of teachers.
  3. Number of hours for each subject
  4. Subject clashes. E.g. a student wishing to do German from a group containing German, Geography, English and French finds this clashes with their sports sessions and so they have to take Geography instead of German.
  5. Making sure double lessons appear for certain practical subjects but ensuring this doesn't happen with others.

Timetables are also produced so that students know when to sit an exam. This allows them to schedule their work correctly.

The main advantage of using software to create timetables is that it is quicker and less error-prone than the older paper-based systems. It is also easier to try 'what if' scenarios to ensure the most efficient utilisation of time.

Also, when teachers are absent, timetables can be produced to cover their classes. This is often done using the main timetable software since each teacher is allocated a class or non-contact time for each of the teaching periods. Based on this, a teacher would either have a class or a 'free period' for each session. The main subject speciality of each teacher is also stored so that a subject specialist can be used to cover for absent teachers.

Where are booking systems used? Explain the steps involved for a typical theatre and cinema booking system?

Online booking systems rely on the ability to update files immediately thus preventing double-booking etc., which could happen if the system response time was slow. Booking systems are used for transport like flights, trains and buses, cinemas and theatres.

We will now see the steps involved in a theatre booking website. Lets assume that the customer has already logged on to the theatre booking website:

  1. The customer clicks on the performance they wish to see.
  2. A date and time is typed in.
  3. The required number of seats is also entered.
  4. The seating display in the theatre is shown on the screen.
  5. The user selects their seat(s) by highlighting the actual seats on the screen display and then clicks CONFIRM to go to the next part of the process.
  6. The database is then searched to check the availability of the selected seats.
  7. If the seats are available, the total price is shown + the seat numbers; this shows on another screen on the web page.
  8. If the customer is happy with this, they select CONFIRM on the screen.
  9. The seats are now temporarily set at NO LONGER AVAILABLE.
  10. The customer then enters their personal details or indicates that they are a returning customer, in which case the website will already have their details.
  11. The payment method is then selected and payment made.
  12. The theatre seats are then booked in the customer's name.
  13. The final details are again shown on the screen.
  14. An email is sent to the customer which they print out as their proof of purchase. This also acts as their printed ticket when they go to the theatre - an e-ticket.
  15. The database is finally updated with the transaction and the seats become no longer available.

Booking seats at the cinema is a similar series of steps.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of online booking systems? (theatre, cinema and flight)

The following are the advantages and disadvantages of online booking systems:

Advantages

  1. They prevent double-booking, which could happen in paper-based systems which didn't update the system fast enough.
  2. The customer gets immediate feedback on the availability of seats and whether or not their booking has been successful.
  3. The customer can make bookings at any time of the day.
  4. The booking company can attach special offers to their customers' email address and also inform them of such offers automatically.
  5. It is usually easier to browse the seating plans, particularly on flights, to choose the best seats available at the price.
  6. It is possible to 'reserve' a seat for a period of time - this allows a customer to 'make up their mind' before finalising the booking of the seat. This was either very difficult or not possible with the older paper-based systems.
  7. Very often there are no printed tickets which saves postal costs and also allows 'impulse' bookings only a few hours in advance.
  8. Online booking allows the use of modern smartphone and tablet apps technology. The customer is sent a QR code which contains all the booking information necessary. This QR code is stored on the smartphone or tablet and only needs to scanned at the theatre or cinema on arrival. This removes the need to print out tickets, which can get lost and also removes the possibility of forgeries.

Disadvantages

  1. The setting up and maintenance of online booking systems is expensive.
  2. All customers using this service need access to a computer and a reliable internet connection.
  3. It is often more difficult to cancel the booking and get your money back using online systems.
  4. If the server is down for maintenance or if the systems breaks down, it becomes impossible to book seats by any method, as temporary paper-based system can't be used because of the risk of double-booking occurring.
  5. If the websites are not well designed, it can be difficult to make exactly the booking you want or can lead you to make mistakes. This is a particular issue with flight bookings where correcting an error can cost the customer an additional fee.
  6. Booking online does not allow you to build a personal relationship with the travel agent who might offer free upgrades or special offers which may not be available to online bookings.

Explain the sequence of steps that need to be made and the processes that take place behind the scenes when using an automatic teller machine (ATM).

Automatic teller machines (ATMs) are places where customers can get cash or carry out certain other banking activities such as order a statement using their credit or debit card.

The following are the sequence of steps that take place during an ATM process:

Sequence for withdrawing cash What goes on behind the scenes
Customer puts card into ATM Contact made with bank's computer
PIN is entered using the keypad PIN is checked to see if it is correct
A number of options are given:
1. Change PIN
2. See account balance
* On screen
* Print out
3. Pay in cheques
4. Receipt required?
5. Get a mini statement (e.g. transactions over the last week)
6. Make a money transfer
7. Withdraw cash
The customer selects the cash option
A number of cash amounts are shown Card is checked for card expiration date or card is reported as stolen
Customer accepts one of the options or types in a different amount Customer's account is accessed to see if they have sufficient funds
Check is made to see if daily limit exceeded
The customer is then asked they want a receipt
The card is returned Transaction is OK
Money is dispensed Customer's account is updated

What are the disadvantages of ATMs?

Disadvantages with ATMs

  1. They are often in places where theft can take place at night.
  2. 'Bogus' ATMs can be set up to gather information about the card and retain the card.
  3. Some banks charge customers for the use of ATMs.

What is internet banking?

Internet banking allows people to transfer sums of money between accounts, payment of bills, ordering of statements and so on. This is particularly beneficial to people who are unable to visit banks during their normal opening hours or if they suffer some disability which makes travelling to the bank difficult. Thus, all the advantages of working from home are valid with internet banking. However, it is also true that the disadvantages of using the internet are very valid when applied to internet banking. As the amount of online shopping and banking increases, the impact on society begins to gain in significance.

More and more people are staying at home and using online shopping and banking to buy goods and services, manage their bank accounts and book holidays etc. All this is done using a computer connected to the internet and some form of electronic payment which is usually a credit or debit card.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of online shopping and banking?

The following are advantages and disadvantages of online shopping and banking:

Advantages

  1. The need to travel into the town centre is done away with thereby reducing costs in the form of money for fuel, bus fares, etc., and time-wasting. It also reduces congestion and pollution at the town centre.
  2. Being online, shopping and banking can be done 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This is particularly helpful to people who work as the shops/banks would normally be closed when they finish work.
  3. Users now have access to a worldwide market and can thus look for products that are cheaper; this is obviously less expensive and less time consuming than having to shop around by the more conventional methods; they will also have access to a much wider choice of goods.
  4. When asking for a bank loan, many people find it less embarrassing to use the internet rather than enduring a face-to-face discussion with bank staff.
  5. This is of great benefit to disabled and elderly people as they can now access any shop or bank without the need to leave home. It helps to keep them part of society since they can now do all the things taken for granted by able-bodied people.
  6. The shops and banks save money by not having as many staff working for them thereby reducing wage bill or hiring of high street premises resulting in reduction in rental costs. These savings are often passed on to customers in the form of lower interest rates, cheaper goods or higher rates on interest for savers.
  7. People can spend more time doing other things e.g. going shopping to the supermarket probably took up a lot of time. By doing this online, e.g. setting up repeat items, people are now free to do more leisure activities.
  8. There are often long queues at the banks or checkouts at the shops, so internet banking saves time.

Disadvantages

  1. If people stay at home to do all their shopping and banking, there is the possibility of isolation and lack of socialisation.
  2. Security issues are a major concern, e.g. hacking, stealing credit card details etc., as are viruses and other malware, e.g. phishing, pharming and so on.
  3. As there is a lack of exercise, there are possible health risks associated with online shopping or banking whereas, if people physically go shopping then they are getting some exercise.
  4. Accidentally using fraudulent bank or shopping websites is always a risk and this is linked to security issues.
  5. It is necessary to have a computer and to pay for the internet to take part in online shopping and banking.
  6. Unlike high street shopping, it is only possible to see a picture of the goods, which might not portray say, the exact colour of a dress nor can you try something on to see if it suits, before buying them. You also need to wait several days for the goods to arrive and returning goods is also expensive.
  7. This is leading to forming of 'ghost towns' as high street shops and banks are closing because of the increase in online shopping or banking.
  8. There is always the risk of making errors with online banking and transfer money incorrectly to different accounts.

What are the effects on companies due to the spread of online shopping and banking?

Just as ICT has affected other areas of our lives, companies and organisations too have been affected by the growth of ICT and online shopping and banking.

Some of these have been enumerated below:

  1. The customer base has reached to the global level, because of internet.
  2. Since fewer staff need to be paid, companies can save some costs also it won't be necessary to have as many shops and banks in high streets to deal with potential customers.
  3. Robberies are less likely due to the decrease in the number of high street.
  4. There will be some increased costs, however, because of the need to retrain staff and the need to employ more staff in despatch departments.
  5. There are also costs due to the setting up and maintaining of websites to enable online shopping and banking.
  6. As there is very little or no customer-employee interaction, this could lead to a drop in customer loyalty, which in turn, could lead to loss of customers. This could also be brought about by the lack of personal service associated with online shopping and banking.
  7. Banks also need to employ fewer security staff which has a cost benefit.

What is telephone banking and what are the steps involved in telephone banking?

Telephone banking is similar to internet banking. The main difference being, it uses the telephone rather than a computer.

Here, the customer calls the bank using a telephone. The following are the sequence of steps:

  1. The customer keys in their account number.
  2. They are then requested to enter a four-digit PIN or selected numbers from their PIN.
  3. The customer will then hear various options, which might include:
    • press '1' for your balance
    • press '2' to carry out a money transfer
    • press '3' to talk to one of our representatives
  4. The customer chooses one of the options, either by pressing the correct key, or some systems ask the customer to speak the number - this relies on voice recognition.

As with internet banking, customers are able to:

  1. Check their balances anywhere in the world
  2. Pay bill or transfer money to another account
  3. Talk with a bank representative.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of telephone banking over internet banking?

The advantages of telephone banking are similar to internet banking but here there is no need to have a computer and it's possible to talk to an actual human being. Many people still find this a more attractive proposition.

But compared to internet banking, it can be much slower as there could be a long queue before you can talk to somebody and the options can be a little more complex to navigate. But it can also be quicker if your computer isn't switched on at the time and you only want a balance enquiry.

What are chip and PIN cards? What are the steps that go through when any payment is being made using these cards?

Many credit cards are equipped with a chip as well as a magnetic stripe - This contains key information such as the PIN.

This system is designed to enhance security since it is better than relying only on a signature. A form of electronic funds transfer (EET) takes place, when you pay for items using a chip and PIN card. Lets say, a customer goes into a restaurant to pay for a meal using a chip and Chip PIN card:

  1. The customer enters the PIN using the keypad on the POS machine.
  2. The card is checked for its expiry date, stolen card, etc., to check for its validity.
  3. The PIN is read from the chip on the card and compared to the one just keyed in.
  4. If they are the same, then the transaction can proceed. If this is the third attempt at entering the PIN, then the transaction is terminated.
  5. The restaurant's bank contacts the customer's bank.
  6. A check is made on whether they have enough funds.
  7. If the card is not valid or there aren't enough funds available, then the transaction is terminated.
  8. If everything checks out OK, then the transaction is authorised.
  9. An authorisation code is sent to the restaurant.
  10. The price of the meal is then deducted from the customer's account.
  11. The same amount of money is then added to the restaurant's bank account.
  12. A receipt is produced as proof of purchase.

How does the clearing of cheques work?

Lets say Sarah banks with Jasan Bank and she pays a cheque for $100 to a company called ABC&D Ltd., who bank with the Mars Bank. Lets see how this money of $100 gets credited into ABC&D's bank account.

Firstly, the cheque is sent by the Mars Bank to a centralised clearing centre. The cheque is processed by the clearing centre by first of all passing it through a reader/sorter machine. This machine automatically reads:

  1. The amount on the cheque
  2. The code line containing account number, sort code and cheque number.

All the cheques are then sorted using their sort codes, which are unique, six-digit numbers that are used to identify each bank or building society, ready for sending to an exchange centre.

The data from the cheque which has been read is then converted into an encrypted file known as IBDE (Inter-Bank Data Exchange) file. Every IBDE is 'signed' with a digital signature so that the receiving bank can be sure that the data hasn't been tampered with.

Later, Mars Bank delivers the cheque to an exchange centre. The exchange centre then passes the cheque back to the paying bank, Jasan Bank in this case, which then sends it to its own clearing centre.

At the paying bank's clearing centre, the digital signature is first checked and then the cheque is passed through their own reader/sorter machine to make sure the data matches with that on the IBDE file. Using the sort code, it also sorts the cheques into branch order.

Later on, Jasan Bank checks to see if Sarah has enough money in her account to cover the cheque and also that it has been signed, dated and written correctly and is genuine. Based on this information, Jasan Bank decides whether to pay Sarah's cheque to ABC&D Ltd or return it unpaid to the Mars Bank.

If Sarah's bank decides not to pay the cheque to ABC&D Ltd, her bank will send the unpaid cheque back to the Mars Bank by special courier.

The decision to return a cheque unpaid must be made on the morning of the day after exchange so the cheque can be returned straightaway to Mars Bank if necessary. A cheque may be returned unpaid for a number of reasons, such as:

  1. It has not been signed, dated or written correctly.
  2. The customer does not have enough money in their account to pay the cheque.
  3. It is fraudulent for some reason.

This whole process, known as 'clearing a cheque', takes three working days, so if you present the cheque for clearing to your bank on a Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday, it will actually take five days to clear.

What is Electronic funds transfer?

Electronic funds transfer (EFT) is a system that allows money transfer instructions to be sent directly to a bank's computer system. Transfer of physical money does not happen, the whole system relies on electronic transfer of money between accounts. When an EFT instruction is received, the computer system automatically transfers the specified amount from one account to another.

One of the common use of EFT is the payment of salaries to the staff, payment to vendors for the goods and services they provide to an organisation. On the day the payment is to be made, the company instructs the bank to transfer money from their account into the bank accounts of their employees/vendors.

Other examples of EFT include: When a credit/debit card is used to pay for a purchase in a store, the payment is made using a system called Electronic Fund Transfer at Point-of-Sale (EFTPOS).

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