Why Do I Take Elearning Attendance?

April 4, 2013

At the recent OTRK12 conference, I listened intently to John Baker of D2L speak and ask for suggestions of what we (the users) would like to see. One suggestion that was raised was that of attendance.  If D2L can log when, how long, what content, emails, pages, etc, then certainly something can be done to create an attendance output for teachers. This was met with rousing applause! (and Mr. Baker did suggest that his team could work on that)  I agree and also have some of my own questions about attendance.  Yes, attendance can take me an hour to do. I check log in dates, times, and submissions. My students are supposed to log in for 5 days AND contribute to the course. They are either all present or all absent for the week. I haven’t always seen the need for me to do this.

Attendance for elearning has muddled me.  I have many reasons I take attendance for my face to face classes. Legally, they are under my care, right? So I should mark if they are actually present if something happens to them during my class time, if a parent should call and look for them, if they are accused of something or are a witness to something. In addition, I use it for organization – what days assignments were missed, due dates, class work.  In elearning, they are not under my physical care, should the home school take care of that? How much responsibilty will fall on me if a student is not “present”? Does anyone really check up on absences and are there ramifications? A student could be marked absent at his home school, but still “show up” in my class.

I have emailed students about absenteeism, if they don’t log in, they won’t get the email. I have emailed and called home schools and sometimes met with, “I’ll check” and nothing else. (don’t even get me started on the seemingly ghost email addresses from home schools that never respond to you – that’s a topic for tomorrow!)  Do I only use attendance as a defence if my student fails? “Well, she didn’t log in, so she didn’t complete assignments, so she failed”.

Is attendance mainly an exercise for me? Is it to make me notice when a student hasn’t logged in and hasn’t handed in an assignment? It is easy to forget about someone you don’t see everyday, so do I do this mainly to remind myself to help this student?  Yesterday I talked about an app that I like for “student” engagement. I wonder if attendance is “teacher” engagement. Is it a way to make sure I don’t forget what it is that I’m ultimately doing – not just creating fancy widgets to entertain, but to TEACH. Without my students, I’m not really doing that, am I?


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