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Why student attendance tracking is critical in remote learning

Article by Sarah Newman

“Administrators anticipate that students grappling with the financial and psychological impacts of the virus could choose to stay closer to home, go to less expensive schools, take a year off or not go to college at all,” writes Anemona Hartocollis for the New York Times. The first batch of students taking their university classes online have become a bit of a ‘pilot program’. Their success can set the tone for the future of higher education.

Without an end in sight for the pandemic, it wouldn’t be an overstatement to say that higher education — like most other ways of our lives — has been permanently altered. Even when the pandemic passes, universities might continue to offer hybrid programs, if not entirely online ones. Now is as good a time as any for universities and colleges to begin building systems that enable stellar remote education.

This requires more than just digitization of existing curriculum, but also a complete rethinking of orientation programs, community engagement and other processes such as attendance tracking.

Attendance matters more in remote learning environments. Here’s why.

It helps improve student performance

A study, based on students at the Queen’s University, Belfast, finds that there is a high likelihood of students with regular attendance performing well in their chosen major. Pretty straightforward, right? Ones who come to class do better.

When classes are conducted entirely online, it can be difficult to ‘see’ who is coming to class and who isn’t.

An automated attendance tracking software can solve this problem. Without burdening students or instructors, it helps keep an eye out for those missing class. Being able to spot trends and possible student risks can enable instructors and administrators to extend support to those who need it.

It aids in designing preventive interventions

Another study finds that students who miss more than a few classes end up scoring lower grades. To address this, they are given make-up work at the end of the semester. It often falls on the instructor to make these arrangements and review them hurriedly.

This can get messy remotely, with things lost in transit.

A remote student attendance tracker will prevent leaving this to the last minute. A mobile attendance app will offer real-time visibility into the groups being left behind. And instructors can offer a helping hand before it’s too late. This can be in the form of additional materials, extra office hours, choices in assignments etc.

It helps build community support

When students struggle in class, they are more likely to reach out to their peers for help rather than their instructors or advisors.

In a remote environment this might be difficult as they might not have had the chance to build strong relationships with their peers yet.

To enable such relationships, instructors need to have a multi-dimensional view of who is showing up and how — best done by a time and attendance software. This way, instructors can encourage students to be more engaged, by setting up small study groups of the right mix of students, to help them build networks.

It informs pedagogy design

On virtual campuses, attendance can offer a whole lot more!

For instance, at home, students might not have the privacy, quietude, or the tools — like headphones or a steady internet connection — to learn effectively. Tracking attendance and tardiness in your online classroom might offer insight into concerns that students aren’t raising on their own. In fact, this kind of feedback can also help optimize your pedagogical methods.

It helps boost student retention

While studying from home, it’s natural for students to feel distant from their university and therefore not experience what college education is like. Without the libraries, sports, games, extra-curricular activities and parties, college is no college at all. And this can have a negative impact on student retention.

While the entire college experience can not yet be delivered online, a sense of community, belonging and learning can be. To experience this, students need to come to class. And you’ll know if they are, if you’re tracking attendance. Here’s a guide to finding the perfect student attendance tracker for you.