Experimenting with VTA Report File Types

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In my last blog, I explained the different report file types. I also gave you some cautions and some ideas for using each of the file types. In this entry, I have some simple experiments for you to run in your own VTA system that will help you see the differences for yourself. We’ll focus on the four most commonly used file types and use the Missing Information report for each of the experiments. The Missing Information report can be found under the Employee Reports menu. This report was designed to help you identify unpopulated fields in your employee data. After you see this report in the various file types, you might think of some other uses for it.

Experiment #1 – PDF
• Select Missing Information on the Employee Reports menu
• On the WHO tab, select All Employees.
• On the WHAT tab, take the defaults.
• On the WHERE tab, set File Type = Acrobat (PDF).
• Click OK.

Notice the PDF version of this report shows the employees in a matrix format with the employee fields across the top of the page. The report indicates unpopulated or missing data by placing an X in the field column, if that field in the employee record is empty.

Experiment #2 – MS Excel 8.0
Using the same WHO & WHAT tab settings from previous experiment

• On WHERE tab, set File Type = MS Excel 8.0
• Click OK.

Look familiar?  It looks just like the PDF version only in Excel.  This is because the MS Excel 8.0 version is created by exporting to Excel from the report form.  It contains only fields shown on the report and retains all formatting.

• Now click on the first employee name in the report.
• Look at the highlighted column headers at the top of file.  Notice how the employee name spans multiple columns.
• The report form was designed for printing, not exporting to Excel, so the data does not align well in columns and is not sortable or filterable as exported.

Experiment #3 – MS Excel (Raw)
Using the same WHO & WHAT tab settings from previous experiment

• On WHERE tab, set File Type = MS Excel (Raw)
• Click OK.

Looks a little different, huh?  It is similar to the PDF version.  This is because the MS Excel (Raw) version is created by exporting to Excel from the report form.  It contains only fields shown on the report, but it retains none of the formatting.

• Now click on the first employee name in the report.
• Look at the highlighted column headers at the top of file.  Notice how the employee name is contained in column.   That’s better than the MS Excel 8.0 version.
• Now look at the column headings in row 1.  They have shifted to the left, so they don’t line up with the appropriate data.
• Here again, the report form was designed for printing, not exporting to Excel.  However, it would require very little clean-up of this file to make it usable in Excel.

Experiment #4 – CSV
Using the same WHO & WHAT tab settings from previous experiment

• On WHERE tab, set File Type = CSV
• Click OK.

Wow!  There’s a big difference between the CSV and PDF versions.  The CSV version contains more fields and it shows the data from the employee record, instead of X’s where data is missing.  This is because the application takes the data that it pulled out of VTA to hand to the report template and dumps it into the CSV file.  The report form is completely by-passed.  The X’s you may have seen in the other reports were created by formula fields in the report template.  For every field that contained no data, the report template displayed an X and it displayed nothing when a field actually contained data.

• There are no worries about data spanning multiple columns or data misalignment.  The data exports cleanly to Excel.
• There are some fields like primkey, break_grp and rptkey that you probably won’t need.  These are fields used by the report template.  You can simply delete any columns you do not need.
Remember to use with Caution – especially in History, Schedule and Requirements reports

◦CSV version can contain duplicate rows to accommodate multi-instructor sessions
◦CSV version can contain both in-progress and completed training history
◦CSV version does not contain formula fields derived in report forms – this practice is used heavily in requirement reports

I hope these experiments help you understand the differences in file types and help you get more out of your VTA Reports.

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Duncan Welder IV
Mr. Welder holds a Master’s of Education from Texas A&M University in Educational Technology and has more than 15 years experience in implementation of Learning Management Systems, both domestically and abroad. Mr. Welder has been recognized for his application of Learning Management Systems to manage regulatory-compliance in industries ranging from petrochemicals to finance and has provided presentations to professional organizations including the Gulf Coast Process Technology Alliance, the Northwest Process Technology Alliance and the American Society of Training and Development.
Mr. Welder’s career is founded in traditional instructional design and computer-based training development. He is a certified Development Dimensions International facilitator, a Kirkpatrick Certified Evaluator and facilitator of the Ohio State University curriculum development program. In addition to working in industry, Mr. Welder has held adjunct faculty positions at Bowling Green State University, Ohio and the College of the Mainland, Texas. Mr. Welder has been published in both Training Magazine as well as US Business Review.
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