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Seat Time and Absenteeism February 11, 2006

Posted by Michael McVey in Students.

kk   The Center for Digital Education released its bi-weekly newsletter today and I was struck by one article with the title University Professors Pulling Lecture Notes from Web to Reduce Absenteeism.

The article referred to my colleague, Americ Azevedo, who taught an Introduction to Computers class at the University of California, Berkeley. A recent article published on the Berkeley web site highlighted Professor Azevedo’s course and his enthusiasm for all the latest technology tools to aid teaching.

It turns out some professors are witnessing a spurt in absenteeism after adopting technologies that were envisioned as learning aids. We have discussed this here before, but it was odd that I heard a similar sentiment echoed this morning by the Associate Dean of the Eller College of Business, Pam Perry. I was there attending a seminar on 1:1 computing hosted by Gateway.

Pam spoke warmly of the 4,500 undergraduate students in the college and surprised me by talking about the amount of absenteeism the college was experiencing from students. She wrote it off to the first whiff of freedom the students were experiencing after high school. Of course, there are other reasons for the absenteeism and much of that has to do with so many professors posting lecture notes online.

This notetaking behaviour used to be the domain of students with ulterior motives who smelled a little profit for themselves. They would take notes and copy them for their hung-over roommates. Now the notes are officially sanctioned and freely available. Perhaps online notes might be the harbinger of more interactive classes. It would certainly be a pleasure to see activities that transcend note taking as the major avenue for learning. This concern for absenteeism might spin the other way and we might get what Pam Perry spoke about this morning, the taking of attendance and bonus points for showing up.

Simply placing a bottom in a chair is losing its value in higher education and forcing them into their seats is becoming harder to justify if the teaching is not changing.



1. Zs - February 13, 2006

You know how I solved this?
I do not have an attendance policy. I never take attendance… BUT if my students are not in class they will not know what we talked about and they will have a little trouble when it comes about posting comments on blackboard. Of course the smarter ones read the book, call a friend, and watch the previous postings and then through in their 5 cents of comment :-) I always pick on those who were not in class because they post questions for what we already have answered in class :-) So, it is not only me recognizing they were not there (ha!).
They need to comment on topics from at least 1/3 of class time. And two exams: a midterm and a final.
I never have empty classrooms.

You will say I am in Midwest, where students come to classes.
I will respond that those who do not come do it as a choice, they think that they will not learn more even if in class, so then why should I be worried about the attendance?
If they can learn for the exams not attending any class, and still do a great job, then I am for it. In the end we want to have lifelong learners. They will go in life and need to know how to learn alone, from books, from web, from experience. If they get used to that style from university, why should be that a bad thing? I think is the reverse: we teachers need to make classes interesting that our students don’t want to miss a class!

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