Are You There? Taking Attendance in the Era of COVID-19
COVID-19 has rocked the world: this might be a general statement, but it reeks of the truth. The world, at this time, cannot go back to what once was. This also includes how the world approaches education.
For education in particular, COVID-19 has altered the structure of school. Now everything is primarily online. Students are left with the responsibility of logging onto Zoom or other platforms to attend their classes.
While online schooling does fix some systemic issues for students who may have disabilities, there are challenges too. When it comes to taking attendance in a virtual classroom, many things have changed.
Here’s how taking attendance in the era of COVID-19 has changed how we view school absence.
Staying Flexible for Students
Because schooling is online, it is easier to remain flexible regarding taking attendance. “Truancy” is not the same as with live school. How can you punish a student for not attending a virtual classroom? Have you inquired about the reasons they are not there?
States like Ohio have made flexibility important as they move forward in the era of COVID-19. The school district will mark students “present” for the rest of the school year as the school continues remote learning.
Flexibility is also important depending on students’ access to internet. Students living in rural areas are more likely to face connection problems or have no access to high speed internet. Some schools are looking to buy their rural students hotspots to help them attend online classes.
It’s still important to make remote learning more accessible for all students. Despite this, the challenges are still present, so remaining flexible is key. Flexibility aside, how are schools measuring learning goals for students?
Measuring Learning, Not Just Taking Attendance
In light of COVID-19, many school districts have decided that they should keep track of students’ attendance. Still, they want to place more emphasis needs to on how to measure students’ learning in this time.
School districts are experimenting with synchronous and asynchronous learning. Synchronous learning is like what students would see in the classroom. Asynchronous learning is what students can work on by themselves.
Also, by giving students daily assignments, students may have a higher retention rate. Giving them more time to work individually on the material is better than sitting for hours on Zoom each day.
Participation in class can be measured by other means rather than taking attendance. Remote learning allows schools the opportunity to re-imagine what it means to measure a student’s learning. However, online time does not reflect how much a student has learned.
Online Time isn’t Necessarily Learning Time
Schools are using online forms or student log-ins to track attendance. Even so, that attendance does not always reflect the student’s actual learning time.
Students may have separate reading or writing homework they complete without a computer. Taking attendance online does not account for this work.
Using online resources to track attendance is helpful to know which students to reach out to. Struggling with the learning material or unable to connect to remote learning should not be a barrier. Still, schools are still learning new ways of student engagement.
New Ways of Student Engagement
Some schools use Google forms for attendance. Others look at student responses in an online forum. Even reaching out to teachers may all count as student engagement with learning.
Student engagement can go far beyond face-to-face (or on-camera) participation. Instead of sitting with their camera on in the Zoom classroom, students can engage in other ways.
Asynchronous learning opportunities are growing. Utilizing new platforms for student learning that don’t need in-class participation. Instead, while schools may still track school absence, they use it as a means to know which students to reach out to.
If students are not connected for at least three days, schools and teachers will often reach out to these students. Students are not penalized for their lack of attendance. Instead, teachers work with students to figure out how to best engage students in the material.
Sometimes, it’s even solving technological issues. Either way, teachers want students to succeed in online learning.
There is Potential
Online learning has needed to grow quickly this year in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic has made clear that taking attendance virtually is trickier.
It’s become important for schools to remain flexible with students. Marking students truant does not translate to the class time online. Not all students have the same access to online tools and platforms.
When measuring learning, it’s important to remember that attendance does not reflect how much a student has learned. Times are tough for schools. Still, schools need to continue working toward better student learning and attendance policies.
That said, the time students spend online is not always connected to their actual learning. Students doing work outside of their attendance is inaccurate information of sorts. It still will not reflect students’ learning outcomes.
Finding new ways of student engagement is challenging. Developing more asynchronous learning tools may help aid students have a better transition to online learning. Using student absence as a way to track which students to reach out to is a wonderful, developing process.
The challenges are there, but the potential in online learning is enormous. However, if you feel that you or a student is being treated unfairly in terms of attendance, you can hire a professional attorney. Let us help you reach a consensus with your school about their attendance policies.
Amanda Byers is a graduate of Columbia, where she played volleyball and annoyed a lot of professors. Now as Zobuz’s entertainment and Lifestyle Editor, she enjoys writing about delicious BBQ, outrageous style trends and all things Buzz worthy.