If you’re required to move your course online quickly—in case of a campus closure, for example—there are some decisions you’ll need to make about attendance policies in your class. You might be asking yourself, “How can I ‘take attendance’ if students aren’t allowed to come to class? What does attendance look like online?” Below are some suggestions for answering these questions and more.
Think engagement vs attendance
Typically, fully online courses focus more on engagement than they do attendance, and you may have to shift your thinking in this way during your short-term shift to online teaching. Even if you choose to have a synchronous (real-time) class meeting via Zoom, there are a lot of legitimate reasons students wouldn’t be able to participate live, and we encourage instructors to remain flexible during times of crisis.
Depending on the nature and size of your class, you might consider short engagement activities for each lesson you plan. That might be a short comprehension quiz, or a Classroom Assessment Technique (CAT) that allows students to reflect on their learning and give you some feedback about how they are doing. If you already use Canvas discussions or Piazza, consider using those tools for getting students to engage with one another online, marking them students as “present” once they engage with a group discussion online.
Technical tools for recording attendance
If you use Zoom for live sessions (an approach that has its own challenges), you can get a report of all individuals who participated in a meeting: Log into http://zoom.iu.edu and look for the Reports link on the left menu bar. Three caveats: First, and most importantly, consider options for students who cannot make a live session, especially during a crisis. Can they watch a recording and do some sort of engagement activity later? Second, if students call in via phone, only their phone number is listed in the logs. Third, make sure they log in with their real name; knowing “Darth Vader” joined the Zoom call doesn’t do you much good.
If you provide class recordings in Kaltura, you can get detailed viewer analytics about who watched the videos, and for how long. If you upload your Zoom recordings into Kaltura for delivery, this could be a good alternative to “live attendance.”
We strongly recommend people not try layering technologies for attendance, like using Top Hat (typically an in-class polling tool) to take attendance during a live Zoom meeting. That is just more of a technical/logistical hassle for you, and it adds more cognitive and emotional overhead for students in a time of crisis, impacting their ability to learn.
- Consider finding ways to measure engagement rather than attendance.
- Be flexible with students during difficult times.
- Don’t over-engineer your attendance/engagement approaches.