Business Intelligence and Reporting Tools (BIRT) is an open source reporting system based on Eclipse that integrates with web applications to produce reports. BIRT provides core reporting features such as report layout, data access, and scripting.

Learn more about the BIRT Project on the Eclipse Web site

BIRT has two main components: a report designer based on the Eclipse platform and a runtime component that can be embedded in custom applications and application servers. BIRT can produce reports that present results in simple lists or charts, cross tab/matrix reports, text documents, and compound reports that combine two or more of these layout types into a single report. BIRT can produce reports that present results in simple lists or charts, cross tab/matrix reports, text documents, and compound reports that combine two or more of these layout types into a single report.

BIRT reports can incorporate data from any source by using its Open Data Access (ODA) framework to access any kind of tabular data. Reports generated from multiple data sources and various data transformations are also supported. Some examples of this include summarization, sorting and calculation of percentages, as well as the type of sorting and grouping that is typically needed for business intelligence reporting.


Enable server multibyte support for BIRT reports

To successfully complete these steps, you'll need full administrative rights as either administrator or root. Upon removing an individual cluster node, Blackboard services will need to be shutdown and restarted to reset the configuration without the clustered node.

Enable in Windows

  1. Enable Windows support for complex script and right-to-left languages and East Asian languages.
  2. Open a command prompt window.
  3. Navigate to the following directory:

    blackboard_directory\tools\admin

  4. Stop your server by running the following command:

    ServiceController.bat services.stop

  5. Start your server by running the following command:

    ServiceController.bat services.start

Enable in UNIX

If you are using Solaris 10, it is possible that you may need to install a patch to fix the locale tool. Blackboard Learn no longer supports application servers running Solaris. For more information, visit Behind the Blackboard.

  1. Add the Japanese, Simplified Chinese, and Traditional Chinese language packs by following the steps for your platform. View Solaris's documentation if needed.
  2. Navigate to the following directory:

    blackboard_directory/tools/admin

  3. Stop your server by issuing the following command:

    ./ServiceController.sh services.stop

  4. Start your server by issuing the following command:

    ./ServiceController.sh services.start


Install the plugin

Blackboard created an Eclipse plugin that works with the BIRT report designer. It packages a raw report definition created using BIRT into a format that can be imported into Blackboard Learn.

Report designers and developers can use BIRT to generate a report using a Blackboard-provided Eclipse plugin. The plugin is used to create a report definition package that is compliant with Blackboard Learn. This package can then be imported using the existing Report import feature. Report packages are generated by the plugin, but that package cannot be imported directly from Eclipse. The import step remains a manual operation.

Install the BIRT designer plugin for Eclipse 3.4

  1. While in Eclipse, select Help > Software Updates to open the Software Updates and Add-ons page.
  2. Select the Available Software tab.
  3. Select Add Site.
  4. To download the BIRT plugin, type the URL http://behind.blackboard.com/EclipsePlugins.
  5. Select OK.
  6. Select the plugin, and select Install.
  7. Read and accept the license agreement, and then install the plugin into Eclipse.
  8. Restart Eclipse.

Install the BIRT designer plugin for Eclipse 3.3

  1. While in Eclipse, select Help > Software Updates > Find and Install to open the Feature Updates page.
  2. Select Search for new features to Install and select Next.
  3. Select New Remote Site.
  4. To download the BIRT plugin, type the URL http://behind.blackboard.com/EclipsePlugins and the preferred site name.
  5. Select OK.
  6. Select the Blackboard site you added, and select Finish.
  7. Select the plugin, and select Next.
  8. Accept the terms in the license agreement, and select Next.
  9. Select Finish and then Install All.
  10. Restart Eclipse.

Use the plugin

After the BIRT plugin is installed, use it to create report packages that can be imported.

  1. Select File > New > Other.
  2. Select Blackboard Project > Blackboard Reports.
  3. Type a name and select Finish. This step creates a new project, including the manifest file.
  4. Create a new report by opening the report design perspective then right-clicking on the project name and selecting New Report. The location and name need to be entered into the BIRT design functions. The manifest file editor is the formatted view of the XML file.
  5. Select Add definition. The definition details update the XML file.
  6. Export the project to a ZIP file.
  7. Enter a name and location. The ZIP file becomes the package that is imported.

Column headers

When queries and custom reports are created in BIRT, all of the selected column names need to be written in upper case. For example, select my_table.my_column from my_table; should be replaced with select my_table.MY_COLUMN from my_table;.

If the above mentioned format is not followed, then the data from the report will be returned without listing the names of the unit, Course, or Course Section.


Parameters

All the parameters that drive the report need to be prefixed with param#. The application integration uses this prefix to recognize parameters that should be rendered to the end user, or set by the application, for the report. There are certain parameters that the application integration will set automatically based on the context the report is run from.

Parameter Descriptions
Parameter Description
param#clp_person#id The primary key ID of the person the report is about.
param#clp_program#id The primary key ID of the program.
param#clp_section#id The primary key ID of the course section.
param#clp_ee_section#id The primary key ID of the educational experience section.
param#clp_ai#id The primary key ID of the improvement initiative.
param#clp_ap#id The primary key ID of the improvement project.
param#clp_unit#id The primary key ID of the operating unit.
param#clp_course#id The primary key ID of the course.
param#clp_ee#id The primary key ID of the educational experience.
param#clp_survey#id The primary key ID of the survey or course evaluation.
param#clp_deployment#id The primary key ID of the deployment, for any instrument.
param#clp_prtfl#template#id The primary key ID of the portfolio template.
param#clp_evidencearea#template#id The primary key ID of the artifact template.

To avoid conflicts with these parameters, parameters internal to the report (not intended to be auto-set by the application) should follow the pattern param#rpt_xxxx.

Parameter prompts

The application now renders prompts directly from the parameters in the report with the BIRT integration. The application integration supports combo boxes, text inputs, check boxes and radio buttons. To render these prompts, make sure to set the parameter handler in the manifest to blackboard.platform.reporting.service.birt.BirtPromptBuilder.

Specify parameters

This section describes the details that need to be defined in each report to allow them to integrate with the application server correctly.

Branding

Every report permits custom branding using images driven by parameters in the header and footer. The following parameters need to be defined in every report. Both parameters are not required and need to be hidden.

brand#header#image
brand#footer#image

If you want to add an image to support branding, the image must be added to the header and footer on the master page. It needs to be left and top justified and have its URI set by the parameters described above. The application sets the brand parameters automatically.

Report title

You can override the default title used for any report. Each report should define a param#report#title parameter to render the title of the report. This allows the application to set the parameter based on the metadata in the database.