The traditional definition of “attendance” is being physically present at a place. With the advent of online elements and hybrid approaches, the conception of “classroom attendance” has evolved. Consider these diverse examples:
- Student is physically present in the classroom
- Student participates in a live online session via Zoom
- Student logs in from home and views a session that is taking place in the classroom
- Student watches a recording of a classroom session and participates in an online activity to demonstrate that they have watched the recording
- Student actively participates in an online discussion throughout the week. Appropriate engagement is an analogue to “attendance.”
All of the above examples share one thing in common: the student is taking some kind of action to show that they are indeed “there,” regardless of the environment in which they are present. However, some methods of attendance facilitate learning of the course objectives better than others. Consider utilizing various attendance modalities where possible as doing so supports students in a variety of ways.
Developing an Attendance Policy
Guide students to make informed decisions about their level of participation in your class by providing clear communication of expectations. When developing an attendance policy, ask yourself:
- What does “attendance” look like in my class?
- Sample: “You are encouraged to attend the classroom sessions in person because I find the back-and-forth interactions valuable; however, I will also record the classroom sessions if you are unable to attend in person. You may choose to watch the recording and answer the question that is embedded in order to receive credit.”
- Is there a logical connection between my attendance policy and the learning objectives of the course?
- Sample: “I highly encourage you to attend the sessions, as we will discuss concepts that you will need to critique in the exams.”
- How will my students be impacted in terms of learning course content if they do not attend routinely? What number of absences is truly too many to satisfy the learning objectives and to be an active part of in-class activities?
- Sample: “This course includes in-class discussion and other activities that are vital to your course learning and that cannot be made up through text reading or other independent learning. Test and assignment grades may be impacted for students who miss too many classes.”
- Why should students attend this class? What benefit will they get?
- Sample: “One of the major assignments in this course is a group project. I highly encourage attending the sessions in person because in the past, students have reported it is easier to work together during scheduled class time.”
- Sample: “Students who routinely attend this course tend to stay more engaged with the course content and perform better on tests and course assignments.”
- Does my attendance policy and/or my make-up exam/work policy unintentionally encourage a potentially sick person to come to class? Pay close attention to linking attendance with a grade. Ideally, the link is tied to course learning objectives and the nature of the in-class experience.
- Sample: “Attendance is important to your success in this course. However, if you are sick or unable to participate meaningfully in class, stay home. Contact me as soon as possible regarding any absences.”
Pedagogical options to consider regarding absent students
Because students may have to be absent due to an illness (or other mitigating factors), faculty may want to consider several aspects of their course and assessment design. Options to think about include:
- Allow all students a set number (or percentages) of absences per semester, regardless of reason or rationale, and not classifying ANY absences as “approved” or not.
- Adjust the reward / incentive / penalty grade scale to create demand for on-time (or even early) completion and submission.
- Reduce the overall impact of the attendance grade on the final grade, and shifting more emphasis to graded submissions.
- Allow alternate assignments or even no late penalty—depending on the discipline, if the student can demonstrate mastery, is it always necessary to penalize lateness?
- Alternately, allow no-penalty make-up assignments that ask just a bit more so that students are not incentivized to seek absences—an example might be the original assignment, plus a half page reflection on a related learning goal.
- If the course is heavy on direct instruction (lecture), consider a stealthy audio capture of your lecture onto Teams or Zoom, and only share the link to individual students when you deem it necessary.
- Embrace a “flipped classroom” model, where the in-class activities are value-added rather than the primary delivery of content.
There is no “one right answer” when it comes to policies for every type of course and every size of class. Faculty should weigh rigor and flexibility carefully, aiming to assist student success where reasonable, but above all keeping the learning objectives of the course and individual class sessions foremost in mind. The Faculty Center stands ready to assist; we happily provide consultations on course designs, policies, and other elements of the teaching endeavor.
Accessible Attendance Practices: Student Accessibility Services has seen a significant increase in students with chronic health conditions. These chronic health conditions can make it very difficult to attend class and to take tests or submit assignments at specific times. Rigid attendance policies pose significant barriers to students in these situations. Flexible attendance policies, including reasonable make-up exam/assignment options, could be an option to consider.
Consider discussing your plans with Student Accessibility Services to ensure that you are creating an equitable learning space for all your students.
UCF Here is an attendance app for iOS and Android devices developed by the Division of Digital Learning. Students can use their smartphone to check into a class, and faculty can manage and take attendance directly through Webcourses@UCF. Even though UCF Here is designed to be used in a classroom environment, faculty can take attendance in live online sessions as well. For instructions on its use, see https://cdl.ucf.edu/support/webcourses/guides/ucf-here-faculty-guide/.
Sample Syllabus Statement
Please refer to our Syllabus Statements page for a sample statement regarding attendance.