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RFID Checks Student Attendance in Arizona 554

The student newspaper at UW-Madison is running a piece about the use of RFID to check lecture attendance at Northern Arizona University. One poster to an email discussion list suggested that getting around this system would be simple if "all one has to do is walk into a classroom with 10 RFID-enabled cards in their pocket." "The new system will use sensors to detect students' university identification cards when they enter classrooms, according to NAU spokesperson Tom Bauer. The data will be recorded and available for professors to examine. ... [The spokesman] added the sensors, paid for by federal stimulus money, initially would only be installed in large freshmen and sophomore classes with more than 50 students. NAU Student Body President Kathleen Templin said most students seem to be against the new system. She added students have started Facebook groups and petitions against the sensor system. ... One of the most popular Facebook groups ... has more than 1,400 members." What are the odds that the use of tracking RFID will expand over time on that campus?
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RFID Checks Student Attendance in Arizona

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  • by clarkkent09 ( 1104833 ) * on Tuesday May 04, 2010 @04:10PM (#32090202)
    American universities aren't exactly places of learning, like they are in Europe and elsewhere.

    QS World University Rankings (Top 20) [] Therefore, you are a terrorist.
  • by dcollins ( 135727 ) on Tuesday May 04, 2010 @04:15PM (#32090274) Homepage

    Man, I hate taking attendance. As far as I'm concerned, attendance should have nothing to do with assessments in college. Moreover, it's a huge waste of time having to do this paper-shuffling stuff at the beginning of each class session.

    However, it's just about the ONE thing that the administration of the college I teach at is totally anal about. They require it, they have an awkward official form that must be filled with checks for every student for every class meeting (can't use my own design, or a spreadsheet, or an online summary), it's the one thing they have a big boldface BY SIGNING HERE YOU VERIFY YOU HAVE CHECKED ATTENDANCE RECORDS FOR ACCURACY.

    Why? Because it's how they document financial aid. Most of the students attending are on some form of government financial aid, and if they potentially withdraw or don't show up, the college can point to this roster and say, "See? Student attended class. Pay up, state agency." I'm wasting hours of time every semester with this CYA bullshit -- but to the administration, getting paid trumps all else.

    I also recently spearheaded an insurgency against an attempt to make attendance a passing requirement in my department's remedial courses. Fortunately (largely because the department chair is a fellow union member and thus responsive -- administration trying to remove that asap), that one did get knocked down.

  • by Cerlyn ( 202990 ) on Tuesday May 04, 2010 @04:17PM (#32090306)

    If you have any student loans, universities in the United States are required to report your last date of attendance, if you are attending at least half time or not, and other information to the National Student Loan Data System []. This may be an automated way that they are trying to get information for this.

    While I imagine universities are not going to rush to using the last date you showed up in class versus the current date for refund and grading (withdrawal with no grade versus withdrawal-failing/withdrawal-pass, etc.), I could easily see universities using this data in the event of a grade dispute or similar issue.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 04, 2010 @04:18PM (#32090320)

    Yes, and two other things:
    1) Kids who do poorly will often give a teacher poor evaluations. Now, a lot of these kids skip 1/3 to 1/2 the classes, and then wonder why they don't do well. It's not fair to the teachers when kids who don't even try rip them apart on evals--these things factor into things like tenure, after all.

    2) Kids will skip lecture, and then come to office hours afterwards to get what they missed. I've had kids in my office essentially wanting me to re-give the lecture--and I always refuse (usually, they are horrified). They can usually get away with doing this a couple times before I say something about coming to class more often, but again, they can raise hell if you refuse to help them in office hours (and will unjustly tear you apart on evals, and on sites like RateMyProfessor). Still, they wasted my time the first few times they were able to get away with it. Somehow, they don't see the issue in that they can't be bothered to show up 3 hours a week, yet I'm supposed to give them my free time.

    Of course, kids at universities think their professors are there to teach them and not do anything else (like, say, research), but that's another issue altogether...

  • by blueg3 ( 192743 ) on Tuesday May 04, 2010 @04:18PM (#32090324)

    When I taught as a TA, we tracked attendance by hand in TA'd sections. (Not using RFID technology, tracking attendance in lectures was pointless.) It's useful information to the instructor to know whether someone who is doing poorly (or doing well) has good attendance. We also often ran into students who liked to file complaints when they got a grade they didn't like. If you've tracked attendance and they have poor attendance, you can quickly show that their complain has no merit.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 04, 2010 @04:24PM (#32090400)

    Title IV regulations require the college to return financial aid funds based on the last date of attendance or participation for students who withdraw or fail to earn any credit during the term.

    Attendance may be in the form of actual class attendance, participation in online assignments or any other “academically related activity” for which you can provide a date.

    By far the easiest way to deal with this reporting requirement is to keep attendance records for your course.

  • by data2 ( 1382587 ) on Tuesday May 04, 2010 @04:27PM (#32090440)

    As a tutor in college, I can assure you that that is often not the case. Sad as it is.

  • by AndersOSU ( 873247 ) on Tuesday May 04, 2010 @04:59PM (#32090856)

    Basically, a poor class and semester planning by the teachers overloads the students so badly that they don't even have time to pee, let alone to themselves and to do homework.

    I hardly think that's the problem.

    In college you schedule your own classes. If you overburdened yourself, that's your problem. If you're trying to support a family (and this is very much an exception) perhaps you should be attending part time.

    The reason people don't go to class is (a) they know the material and don't feel compelled to go or (b) they don't want to (usually because they're hung-over).

    I stressed about exams occasionally as an undergrad too, but neither I nor any of my friends were ever in a position where we couldn't go to class because we had too much studying to do. Actual classroom time was usually ~30 hours/week.

  • by rwade ( 131726 ) on Tuesday May 04, 2010 @06:13PM (#32091696)

    Well, if the school has a written money-back guarantee, then it probably should give them their money back.

    Last time I checked, though, no serious educational institution worth attending had such a policy. Who would take a guaranteed-passing-or-your-money-back degree seriously? You pay tuition for the privilege of attending, whether or not you make the grade. If you flunk, you come back next semester, or you transfer, or you go see if Macy's is hiring. Schools don't have to defend themselves against whining, they just show you the door.

    Great point. Indeed I had a series of terrible professors in college. I honestly believe that their terrible teaching caused me to fail. However, I wouldn't say that it's exactly unfair that I had them -- many in that class had the same professor and they passed, so what exactly would be my cause to sue?

    Let's pretend that most of the class failed anyway, and most of this prof's classes fail year-after-year-after-year -- what will happen? Yeah, nothing. You've seen it. I've seen it. There are terrible professors and they get away with it regardless of whether people complain.

    Your argument is extremely critical because tracking student attendance for "warranty" purposes is really the only valid business reason for tracking student attendance. Since there is no pedagogical reason, the only other reason can by voyeurism.

  • by Daniel Dvorkin ( 106857 ) * on Tuesday May 04, 2010 @09:38PM (#32093236) Homepage Journal

    And both of us have to thank the Democratic Party for this wonderfully creative and innovative weaselese, that started it all: "We support the troops, but not their mission." []

    Reading the article, it's pretty clear that who we have to thank is a conservative columnist reporting a bunch of imaginary conversations he had in his head with straw-man liberals. Note to Mr. Robinson: lots of people have imaginary conversations in which we display our slashing wit and insight until our opponents slink away in shame, but most of us don't embarrass ourselves by publishing them.

  • by Jah-Wren Ryel ( 80510 ) on Tuesday May 04, 2010 @09:55PM (#32093350)

    And by your logic, there is nothing wrong with my (current) signature: "I support Barack Obama, but not his mission."


    Do you know him? What other characteristics besides 'his mission' does he have that you do support? None? Then you don't support him.
    The military, just like a gun, can serve multiple purposes. It is entirely reasonable to be in favor of less than 100% of those purposes.

The human mind ordinarily operates at only ten percent of its capacity -- the rest is overhead for the operating system.