This post is included in my online education professional portfolio and outlines an intervention using technology to increase attendance and engagement of students in compulsory labs.
Background: 130 students were required to attend 3-4 skill stations, over two days a week for five weeks to learn fundamental skills. Each day this took six teachers to allow 65 students to rotate between 3-4 skill stations.
Management of attendance became cumbersome using a paper-based system. This was mainly due to staff inconsistency in taking attendance, staff forgetting to enter data into a spreadsheet or deleting said spreadsheet from a shared drive.
On discussion several problems with this process were identified by my team: Firstly, some student attendance was sporadic. For example, several students came to class, signed in and would then leave, while others arrived late and left early. On investigation, this appeared to be the same students who went on to fail a related assessment point. The team agreed students needed to engage in these labs as it covered the minimum skills students were required to learn. We then brainstormed ideas to increase student attendance and began taking attendance at each skill station rather than just at the beginning of the day.
Unfortunately increasing of paper-based attendance tracking became time-consuming and inconsistent amongst staff which meant tracking was difficult. Therefore I decided that a more streamlined system using technology to manage areas where the risk of data loss was high.
My aim was to develop a system with the following attributes:
- track the date and time students enter skill stations
- students become responsible ensuring their attendance is recorded
- reduce the risk of data loss through transcription errors, inconsistency in the collection of attendance information
- minimal input (e.g. scan only no typing)
- scanning can occur on anyinternet-enabled device with a camera
My solution was to use Blackboard (LMS), Google Sheets and Google Forms to track attendance using QR Codes.
Initially, the first semester that QR scanning was implemented, the QR code for each student was generated using Google Sheets and this was then emailed to students using mail merge. While this process worked for me, I felt that this would be too long and complicated for many staff to implement so I investigated other options for QR Code generation.
Suggestions from experts were to get students to generate their own QR Code or get information from their existing student ID card. The use of student ID cards was problematic as the barcode on this was linked with a unique number (not their student ID number) and we were unable to easily access information linked to this number.
On investigation, I found that Blackboard would allow us to extract some data for each student and generate unique content using this, which meant that we could make a QR code appear on each student’s Blackboard page that included their full name which I could then use to populate a Google Form via the URL.
Students would see a QR code similar to the one pictured in the diagram above and can either print this or bring it to class on their own device.
Requirements for setting up this QR system include a Google Account (or Gmail login), a mobile device (with a camera), a QR scanning App (usually free from app stores) and a platform to distribute QR codes (either mail merge or an LMS).
The following document outlines the process of setting up QR code scanning for attendance using blackboard.
On reflection, setup using Blackboard is much easier and streamlined than using Google Sheets with mail merge to generate student QR Codes. Overall using this system has decreased transcription errors in attendance data, revision tracking is built into Google Sheets so the file can not be deleted by accident. Students are reported to be taking responsibility for attendance tracking and expecting teachers to scan their code when they come to class. We are now able to track exact date/time students arrived and whether they were present for all stations.