Higher ed awakening to link between attendance, engagement and success
Changing cultures to embrace attendance
Whether you have an automated system or not, there are challenges executing attendance at the higher ed level.
Chief among these is instructor participation. “Capturing attendance has in the past been seen as a chore that eats into class time, and for that reason, in higher education some instructors simply view attendance as the student’s responsibility and missed classes are reflected in grades,” says Blackboard’s Boeckman.
In the past capturing attendance has been seen as a chore that eats into class time, and for that reason, in higher ed some instructors simply view it as the student’s responsibility and missed classes are reflected in grades
Another ever-present challenge is the cost to acquire and maintain an attendance solution. “The challenges relate to funding for card reader terminals, initial setup, and assigning rights to cardholders for tracking,” says Heartland’s Emery. “Once this is completed there is ongoing maintenance of data, reporting and management of terminal usage.”
CBORD’s Chaffee highlights another challenge that exists on the back end regarding the reliability of collected data. Is it self-reported attendance? Is there a proctor or staff member checking them in? Is it automated via a swipe of the card or is someone manually writing something down? “In the very near future we believe this will all be automated across the board,” she says. Then, attendance will come of age.
“It does take time to manually capture and report attendance, but using an automated tracking solution reduces the friction for both the student and the instructor, so achieving faculty buy-in becomes more manageable,” says Pawlak.
Attendance at Longwood
For Virginia’s Longwood University, retention and financial aid compliance were the primary inspirations for adopting an attendance solution.
“Longwood’s top priority for our strategic plan is to increase student retention,” says Christina Sampier, manager for the Lancer Card Center at Longwood University. “Tracking student attendance can help identify students who may be in danger of underperforming academically by not only looking at class attendance but also following their spending patterns, access history and more.”
Longwood needed to find a way to identify absentees early to assist with the institution’s compliance with Federal Financial Aid requirements and audits, says Sampier. “We are able to identify ‘no shows’ more quickly and even identify students who have changed their patterns in an effort to identify students who may be experiencing some issues.”
Longwood University, a CBORD campus client, runs CS Gold and uses various methods to track attendance. “We not only track classroom attendance but are also tracking attendance at events on and off campus,” says Sampier.
Longwood uses CBORD’s AERO readers that are already stationed in various locations around campus, as well as mounted attendance readers in classrooms and mobile readers that use an iPod Touch or iPad mini. The university also has an AERO reader that uses a Verizon Aircard for locations that do not have reliable Wi-Fi such as parking lots, the campus lawn or off-campus sites.
The attendance function integrates directly with the existing card system. “All of these devices require a card swipe,” Sampier says. “Since all students, faculty and staff have a Lancer card, it makes this an easy method to use for campus related activities.”
Faculty and staff are also included in the attendance system. “There have been instances where a mandatory staff training was taking place, a Title IX training for instance, and the university needed to track attendance to ensure all faculty and staff attended the training,” explains Sampier.
As for students, Longwood’s faculty currently decide if they are going to use the attendance system and have the option to make it mandatory for their class.
“I get a list of faculty that are teaching in the rooms where we have an attendance reader and ask if they plan to utilize the system,” says Sampier. “We have 90% participation this semester.”
I get a list of faculty that are teaching in the rooms that we have attendance readers and ask if they plan to utilize the system. We had 90% participation rate this semester.
After instructors inform the office and verify the class schedule they just need to make sure students swipe their cards when they enter the room, says Sampier. “It’s that simple. As long as they swipe, we are able to capture that data and run reports.”
The system at Longwood is able to not only provide faculty with student names and attendance dates but also academic major, email address and other information that may be of interest.
The benefits of implementing an attendance system are certainly evident. “More students are carrying their card with them because they need it for more services, while faculty are happy that they can begin class right away and not wait for students to sign in on a piece of paper or call roll,” Sampier says.