College Classes

Freshman engineering students studying how graph and charts are used in Dr. Heath Schluterman's Intro to Engineering class. (Photo by Kris Johnson)

As the new semester begins, every student is trying to figure out which classes are going to be okay to miss. It’s everyone’s worst nightmare to see attendance/participation as part of final grade breakdown on the syllabi professors give out. Taking attendance in college has always been a highly debated subject. On one side, professors just want students to participate and learn but on the other students want to be treated as adults.

Most professors choose to make attendance part of their final grade. Every semester a student may get one class out of five that doesn’t take attendance. At the UofA, it’s usually the bigger classes that consist of about 300 students because it’s too difficult to take roll. Northern Arizona University has figured out how to fix this problem. NAU invested $85,000 on federal stimulus funds to buy scanners that could take attendance for the teacher by scanning the students ID at the door, NPR said. Taking attendance is something jobs do. Going to class is a responsibility and choice students have, not an obligation.

Students pay a very pricey tuition to be a part of the university. The average full-time student at the UofA pays approximately $3,500 in tuition. That tuition money is used to pay professors to teach. They’re going to get paid, regardless if anybody shows up to class.

“The university is a service provider. Teachers are part of the service it provides. The teachers work for the students,” said Bill Gordon, PhD, and graduate of The David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.

It’s not uncommon to walk by classrooms and see students sleeping, Facebook chatting or checking Instagram while the professor is trying to lecture. Professors take attendance and count it as “participation” but tweeting and Snapchatting is not participating. Students are in class but they aren’t learning. This wouldn’t be a problem if students found the material the slightest bit interesting or important but most of the time they don’t. It should be the professor’s job to keep students entertained and make them want to learn. If they want their students to pay attention and go to class they should make it necessary to be in class to pass the tests, not because of their presence but because of the knowledge only the professor can provide.

Although attendance and academic achievement are correlated, some students are capable of passing a class by only showing up to the tests and quizzes. There are many professors who teach straight out of the book and expect students to want to show up to class when they could easily be learning the same thing in the comforts of their own homes.

“There would be no need for mandatory attendance as students seeking high grades will quickly learn that they need to attend the course regularly,” said professor Kelli Marshall from DePaul University.

She does not implement a mandatory attendance policy because she says it saves her a lot of time and hassle. Students who want to pass her class simply show up because they know it’s material they can’t get anywhere else.

“I think by the time we get to college, students should have the right and responsibility to prioritize their own time, sometimes things come up and you just can’t make it to class. It’s so annoying having to find a legitimate written excuse to be excused from just one class. It’s not like we’re in high school,” senior Cori Butcher said.

For some classes, students are allowed to have three unexcused absences from class before their grade begins to drop. Three absences in four months are sometimes not enough, especially for students who have other responsibilities such as outside part-time jobs or those who get sick easily.

Taking attendance doesn’t make students learn, it just makes them present. Students are in class hearing what the professor is saying but they aren’t actually listening and understanding. Taking attendance is an ineffective method to making students learn in class with all of today’s technology.

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