May 1, 2010

The Cost of Sleeping In

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How many times have you woken up for your 9:05 lecture, decided you were completely unmotivated and could get the notes from a friend, turned over, and went back to sleep?  At Cornell, this is a common occurrence.  In fact, one of the 161 things to do at Cornell before you graduate is to sleep through an alarm for a 1:25 class.  However, did you know that each time you skip a class, you are costing your parents $145.19?  That’s right: every time you hit the snooze button and decide that your time with your pillow will be more productive than your time in a classroom, your parents are doling out $145.19.  Although it is easy to say that you will get up for that lecture tomorrow, chances are it will not happen.  How can this attendance problem be solved?

According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, there may be a solution.  At Northern Arizona University, an electronic system will be installed in the upcoming fall that will track students’ attendance in large lecture classes.  The system will work by scanning student ID cards with an electronic sensor as students enter a classroom.  At the end of the class, professors will receive electronic attendance reports.  By implementing this system, students will be more inclined to attend classes that they previously believed were not being monitored with regards to student presence.  Studies have shown that there is a positive correlation between student attendance and academic achievement.  Therefore, the more frequently students attend classes, the more likely they will be to graduate after having a successful and engaged academic career.

Is this system fair to students?  While students are expected to attend all classes they are enrolled in, large lectures often do not require attendance as part of the overall course grade.  Some students believe that this new system may violate their privacy because they are being treated as children instead of as decision-making college students.  Since students and their families are paying for the classes anyway, it should be the choice of the student if he or she wants to attend the class on a particular day.  Students are already coming up with ways to get around the system, such as giving ID cards to friends if a student cannot, or does not want to, attend class.

Tracy Mitrano, the director of information-technology policy at Cornell, believes that the system is being used to treat college students like grade-schoolers.  If other staff or faculty at Cornell feel this way, the system will most likely not be implemented here.  It remains to be seen if the system will motivate students to attend class, or simply motivate them to think of ways to challenge the newly implemented system.

Original Author: Rachel Rabinowitz