How to track attendance in Sakai…

A lot of faculty want an easy way to track attendance, especially because it has direct impact on a students overall ability to learn in the course and may also impact student’s access to financial aid.

UPDATE: AUG 2017 – Thanks to the University of Dayton, a new attendance tool is available for pilot use to faculty teaching face to face or hybrid courses. Contact Dave Eveland to make a formal request. Some tutorials area available here.

While tracking attendance in Sakai would be easy – IF there were an “Attendance” tool – there is a way to do so easily enough using a tool you’re probably already familiar with.

When you stop and think about it, you really just need some way of documenting if a student was present in class and/or if they were late to class or not – and on particular days. If you could have some means of designating the tool, and some means of tracking tardies to calculate grades at the end of the term then at least you’d have something – and if you could do so in Sakai – you could easily communicate that information to each of the students themselves about their attendance.

Let’s think Gradebook.

Screen Shot 2015-08-27 at 8.45.22 AMGradebook allows you to create endless gradebook entries.  In this case we’re going to think of each class session as a gradebook entry.  More over we’ll use the Categories feature (Gradebook>Gradebook Setup) to create at least one zero-weighted category called “Attendance”. Once this is done, add gradebook entries for each of the course dates; I suggest using something numerical so Sakai will auto sequence the dates so 08242015 would work for August 24, 2015.  Be sure to keep that leading 0.

Now comes the tricky part: how many ‘points’ do you make each of these items. If you want to track tardies and full absences at the same time – and then easily recognize at the end of the course the total number of absences. Since University policy stipulates that 3 tardies is equivalent to one full absence, I’m going to make the the total points for each of these 1, making sure to on each item to leave the “Include this item in course grade calculations” option UNCHECKED. I do want students to see the item so I’ll leave “Release this item to Students” checked.

Now when I go to do attendance for the course (either at the beginning or as part of a process I do later when I’m in my office), I’ll pull up the appropriate gradebook entry, and give .3 to each student who is was tardy and 1 for each student who was absent. What about the students who are present you ask? Well I can either give those folks a 0 [zero] or leave their entries blank.  Since each of these gradebook items is not included in the course grade calculations, it doesn’t impact their overall grade by getting a 0 entry – and blank (null) entries don’t count against a student’s overall grade anyways.

Happy attendance taking!