Thursday, January 19, 2012

Easier attendance...there's an app for that

I have a great way for students to take ownership of the course. It requires the iPad and an app, but it is certainly working well in my course.

I began using the Attendance App (See last semester (at midterm) in two courses to see how it would work out. I was skeptical and used a paper sign in as a backup system just in case the app failed in some way. It didn't and it really saved me some time. But more importantly, it was received so well by the students that I decided to go completely paperless and begin using it (without the safety net of paper sign ins) this semester.

The app has a lot of user-friendly features about it. Basically, you add the students (either import a CSV file or type in manually) and any relevant information you want to incorporate. Then, students (or you) just tap the screen to check them in. Tapping the "Absent" button once changes their status to "Present" (and you can set other options, stock options include "Late" or "Excused" or "Unknown").

Use of "buttons" to sign in, showing this week's attendance so far.
I put the iPad right in front of me and welcome students to class. I oversee their "clicking" in their attendance (to make certain they aren't clicking for others), but my classes are small enough I know when students aren't there and could modify this if it ever happened (it hasn't). The students LOVE this. I let them click in to help them mentally check into the course for that day. They can also immediately see how many absences they have. It is a great way to keep them in the loop regarding their attendance. 

Where does the "student ownership" come in? Well, in my courses (20-30 students), the students take a few moments in class and enter their email and take a picture of themselves to use for the attendance app. They love doing this. The best part is that they input the email they use most often (not just our institutional email, which like most institutions is not as heavily used as the students' non-institutionally provided email address). I can email one (or all students) for course announcements or just to send them a report of their attendance (as a warning) without doing anything extra on my part. It is literally two finger taps of the screen. So far, I have found that the app helps me remember their names and it helps them remember each others names. It saves me the time of transferring a hard copy signature page to my excel or Blackboard grade books.

At the end of the semester (or anytime really), I can save a copy of the records in CSV if I would like to. I also back it up in my DropBox easily. I used the app to generate a report and submit it to our retention coordinator last semester to show which students were missing too many classes.

The app is currently $4.99 and has saved me time while making my work easier!

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