[teknoids] RE: Technology to assist with taking attendance (long)

Seibel, Robert rfs at cwsl.edu
Fri Nov 21 13:56:37 EST 2014

We need to get into the 21st century.  Inexpensive cameras that are trained on the entrance to each classroom can record the students entering and face recognition software will then record attendance automatically.  If the law schools will cooperate and share the cost of the software and if NALP will require photos for all applicants which can be loaded into the software, the system will be simple efficient and probably become a good test case for privacy rights.

An extension of the concept could also monitor and catch students who are surfing the web during class instead of paying attention to the prof.  Perhaps a few pennies of fines for each violation would solve the law school financial crisis.

Happy Friday!

Bob Seibel

California Western School of Law

rfs at cwsl.edu<mailto:rfs at cwsl.edu>

From: teknoids-bounces at ruckus.law.cornell.edu [teknoids-bounces at ruckus.law.cornell.edu] on behalf of Hirsh, Kenneth (hirshkh) [hirshkh at ucmail.uc.edu]
Sent: Thursday, November 20, 2014 7:36 AM
To: teknoids (teknoids at ruckus.law.cornell.edu)
Subject: [teknoids] Technology to assist with taking attendance (long)

Good morning all,
My search of the mailing list archives indicates this topic was last discussed in a brief thread started by Randy Norwood back in 2013. Since then the ABA has adopted its revised standards for accreditation, and among them is a strengthened rule about attendance, which now reads as follows:
Standard 311(f): “A law school shall adopt, publish, and adhere to a written policy requiring regular class attendance.”
Here, as I expect will happen elsewhere, administrators are contemplating how to make implementation of the newly required policy as easy as possible for faculty, who clearly don’t want to spend valuable class time on counting heads. The administration also needs to be able to monitor compliance with the policy. Below I summarize what I have looked into so far, and my question to you is, what if any options are you considering for making this task easier at your school?

To begin with, one can go with low-tech paper and pen methods: a roll-sheet on which the professor checks off missing students, or conversely present students, and this is fairly efficient for small classes. Using paper sheets does make reviewing attendance somewhat labor-intensive, and if the administration intends to keep track of them, they have to be filed and perhaps digitized. The conversion step can be avoided if one uses a tablet or laptop to fill in the sheet, which could be in a simple spreadsheet or word processing table. Then they can be emailed or uploaded to a shared folder for administrative review. Taking this one step further, there are applications that are specifically designed for this purpose. An example is MyAt, found at http://www.myattendancetracker.com, which lets the professor indicate attendance on the tablet. It appears to have the ability to import rosters from .csv files and output reports.

With larger classes, having the professor or an assistant call roll or scan the room for missing students becomes more cumbersome and hence more problematic. One might then turn to self-reporting mechanisms. These could include

(1)    A paper sign-in sheet that students use as they enter the room. Again, this becomes cumbersome for review later.

(2)    A general polling system such as Poll Everywhere http://www.polleverywhere.com or Turning Point’s PRS system http://www.turningtechnologies.com. These let the student text an SMS or use a dedicated device to answer a survey question that simply asks, “Are you here today?” The need to project or display the response information and to manually save the data still makes this somewhat cumbersome. We’ll set aside the possibility that students will check-in for absent colleagues as a realistic possibility, but one that can be discounted by making doing so an honor code violation. The standard does not require perfection, only a good faith effort on the part of the law school.

(3)    A purpose-built attendance check-in system, such as AccuClass, at http://www.engineerica.com/accuclass. This lets students indicate presence by swiping their student ID cards through a card reader, passing an assigned RFID fob near a sensor, or typing an ID number on a keyboard, and the information is stored in a database that allows for generating required reports. It requires a dedicated device in the room, typically a computer or tablet, and in a large class the sing-in queue could take significant time to process. Still, it requires virtually no effort on the part of the professor.

I’d appreciate any thoughts that you might have on this question.

Kenneth J. Hirsh
Director of the Law Library and I.T.
Professor of Practice
University of Cincinnati College of Law
ken.hirsh at uc.edu<mailto:ken.hirsh at uc.edu>
(513) 556-0159

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