Friday, 16 September 2011

Monitoring Attendance & Registers

Our Academic Services (AS) office are looking at ways they can make lecturer's life easier, especially where registers/attendance monitoring are concerned.  Our Management Information Team are looking at electronic swipe card devices in certain rooms, as well as a mobile unit, currently this is a relatively small pilot project.

We have been asked what tools are available in Wolsey to help, Blackboard doesn't come with many features for this, we do have a 3rd party building block, that does do some of what AS are looking for.  With the changes that are happening to Wolsey in the coming months and the fact that we are looking to reduce what 3rd party/undocumented building blocks we have, we have advised against the use of this tool.

After a chat between myself and Andy we decided to have a look at making a very quick, simple low risk system just using Google Docs.  Initially we have taken one module, creating a spreadsheet in Google Docs, created a form that has one "checkbox" question for each student on the module.   There are 4 options for each student/question, these give the lecturer the option to choose whether the student was:

  • P - Present

  • A - Absent

  • L - Late

  • AA - Authorised Absense

This doesn't take very long to setup, even though we are using a manual process to create the form, once you have created the first student/question you can use the "duplicate" option and just change the name for each new student.  If this pilot/idea is liked we will spend a bit more time looking at scalability and how this can be automated.

Using the form means it is a very simple process for the lecturer to take the "register", the screenshot below (student names removed) shows the form on a computer/laptop:

As you can see, a very simple form with tick boxes.  We then thought it would useful if the lecturer could take the register using their phone or tablet device, when attempting this, it became necessary to zoom in a little to make the form more user friendly.  To make this unnecessary we have created a website using Google Sites, enabling the mobile friendly option, we embedded the form into the webpage, which when accessing via a mobile device makes the form much easier to view, as shown below:

This removes the need for the lecturer to have to try and zoom in to enlarge the form.   Once the form is submitted it immediately saves the data to the spreadsheet, with each submission being a taught session/lecture having its own row in the database and the students attendance marked in their own column, as shown below:

Now using the Google Docs sharing options this document can be accessed by whoever requires access, lecturers, course administrators etc.

To improve this spreadsheet further we decided to run some very simple conditional formatting over it, it gives any viewer of the document a very quick guide to a students' attendance.  Using traffic light style colours we can now see the formatted document below:

As well as the above, we can also utilise the "Summary Responses" feature in Google Docs, this gives a long term summary of each students as seen below:

We are due to meet with Academic Services early next week to demo this concept, we already have a lecturer lined up to pilot it with one of his modules, we look forward to comments back from these potential users.

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