Let’s Talk Attendance
Finding an efficient tool for taking attendance has been a continual challenge in recent years, and the pressure has increased this fall because of the COVID pandemic.
As most of you are probably aware, the university is asking all faculty to create seating charts for each of their classes in the event that we need to complete contact tracing due to positive COVID tests. To help you, I created this super-basic blank seating chart in a Word doc in hopes that you can manipulate it to fit your needs.
Beyond seating charts, I thought it would be helpful to discuss your options for taking attendance in hyflex courses, a term used to describe courses that allow students to connect in either a face-to-face environment or online.
I’ll briefly talk about some of the tools available for purchase, and then we’ll go over the no-cost attendance tools we all have available at ASU for hyflex courses that meet either synchronously or asynchronously.
Student Response Systems
Student response systems, such as Top Hat or Squarecap, are popular because they not only record attendance, but they can help keep students engaged in your course by allowing you to easily ask poll questions and gather student responses. Typically students respond using their smartphone, tablet or laptop, and the instructor can use that data to inform several aspects of teaching.
And for what it’s worth, I did talk to some Top Hat reps this summer who said Top Hat is equipped to handle synchronous hyflex courses. The service previously had a geolocation component to keep students from gaming the system, but that has been removed for the time being while so many students are connecting remotely.
The downside is that student response systems typically have a fee associated for students. And finding the cheapest service sometimes isn’t always the cheapest option for your students.
Several student response systems charge by the semester, and you can connect as many courses as you would like. So if you try to do something good by choosing a cheaper service, but some of your students are using a more expensive option in one of their other courses, they are now paying for two student response systems.
Several departments on campus use a tool called Navigate to track student advising, degree progress and several other items. Navigate also has an attendance feature that allows you to easily document who is present and who is absent.
Navigate isn’t sophisticated enough to allow students to respond and record their own attendance like you see with student response systems. Instead, it relies on you as the instructor to know student names and to be able to easily survey the room and document attendance status.
This obviously isn’t going to be a good option for large lecture courses. And if you are requiring attendance for remote students then you may need to use an additional tool. But Navigate might be a great solution for any small upper-division courses.
To access Navigate, login to RamPort, go to the Advisor page, and click on the “Navigate” icon at the top of the screen. For instructions about how to take attendance in Navigate, refer to this Navigate Attendance Handout that the Freshman College created for us.
Synchronous Face-to-Face and Remote Attendance
Blackboard pushed out a recent upgrade to Collaborate that could be a game changer for taking attendance in courses that meet synchronously for face-to-face and remote instruction.
You now have the option to download the results of poll questions, and those responses are associated with individual users. The service also offers some detailed reports that could be used to verify attendance.
In fact, you wouldn’t even need to use any polling questions to get the attendance report, but the questions do give face-to-face students a reason to login.
For the sake of transparency, I’ve just done some limited testing, so I’ll let you know what worked for us, but that doesn’t mean other setups won’t work.
We set up Collaborate sessions with beginning and end dates. Then, after the session ends, you can go in and review your reports. Here’s a few screenshots to show you how you access the reports:
First, find your finished session and use the dropdown that says “View Reports.”
On the next screen, you’ll see links to both download your poll data and access your attendance report.
Here’s what it looks like when you download the poll data:
And here’s what the attendance report looks like:
To kind of simulate a student response system, you can tell your face-to-face students to answer the poll question by accessing your course from the Blackboard Student app. From our testing, that recorded the student data with no problems.
Your students at home can connect through a desktop or laptop for easier viewing.
Asynchronous Remote Attendance
If you aren’t having your remote students log in synchronously to join your face-to-face course, you may still be seeking a way to document whether or not those students are watching your video recordings.
The good news is that we recently added video analytics in Kaltura, and you can get some really great data. (It’s much more robust than statistics tracking in Blackboard.) You have the ability to get information about individual users and the time they spent with each video.
Here’s a few screenshots to show you the steps of how to get to the video analytics:
First, navigate to the Kaltura My Media page and find the video in question. Then click on the analytics icon next to it.
Next, scroll midway down the page and find the part that says “View Engagement Per User” and click to expand it.
Just be sure to adjust the date range at the top of the page so that you’re pulling the right metrics.
Another thing I wanted to call your attention to is the ability to get video analytics from Kaltura for any YouTube videos you use in your course. You may have previously noticed the YouTube option on the “Add Media” dropdown:
The benefit of adding your YouTube videos to your course this way is that it strips out the ads and allows you to get metrics on which students in your course are watching your video and for how long.
As I’m sure you’ve noticed, there are just about as many attendance options as there are course delivery options this fall. The key is choosing one that is a good fit for your teaching style and your course delivery format. If you need help choosing, feel free to contact me and we can talk through it.