Attendance Tracking: Customizing the Campus Experience

As the spring semester begins and students return to classes across the country, a growing trend becoming the norm for college administrators is the effective use of data analytics in their operations. Making strategic operational decisions on a college campus is only possible after the collection of data gathered from students. A recent survey of technical trends in Higher Education has revealed an increasing interest in colleges and universities making the most from data analytics collected through the use of school ID cards. For this reason, schools are becoming more comfortable with attendance tracking of their campus populations.

Generating data in order to analytically measure the quality of the student experience may seem contradictory at first; each school is as unique as the students who attend. However, what colleges and universities across the country are coming to realize is that they can capitalize on their unique identity as a school by customizing where and how they collect their data. This is one way they can then better customize the unique experience they offer their students.

Identity and Attendance

Attendance tracking typically conjures up images of students swiping their cards to attend a lecture in a classroom, says Beth Koziol in her “To the Point” video. But during a recent conversation, she discussed how “attendance” is evolving beyond this limited view. Card readers and the applications of campus cards have progressed to the point where schools can customize how they collect attendance data from their students. Getting creative with data collection in a variety of ways allows schools to better customize their campus identity.

As a manager of the Cashless Client Development Group at CBORD, it is Beth's job to provide schools with the tools they need to re-enforce each unique campus identity and also to identify places where this identity can be promoted further. Schools are finding creative uses of attendance tracking to enhance their campus identity. Some prefer fixed readers mounted to walls or on doors to gauge and organize how they manage the physical space of campus, while others are focused on tracking students and student groups with mobile readers. Combining these two forms of collection can provide an even more comprehensive picture of campus life.

While we are already familiar with attendance tracking and how it can be used to promote academics, Koziol also shared stories about ways schools are getting creative with their data collection to reflect their unique collegiate identity. She shared an anecdote about a non-secular college that incorporated chapel visits and religious services into its mission statement; an attendance tracker was an excellent way to measure the success of these services and how their population reflected the wider campus community. She also cited the success of Florida International University’s use of mobile readers for their One Card. Student government, athletic events, campus transportation and parking, and special events were all enhanced through the collection of data that will be used during the planning of future events.

Empowering Students, Customizing Data

Administrators decide if tracking readers are installed in classrooms to follow student attendance, but mobile readers empower the student body. Koziol notes mobile readers are used more and more often by on-campus student groups collecting data of their own organized events; the mobile readers offer amazing potential for data collection because it can move with the students throughout the school grounds.

There is no “one-size-fits-all” when it comes to attendance tracking. Koziol’s advice to schools looking to implement or expand attendance tracking on campus is to consider what they want to track, it’s all about clearly considering priorities and making the technology fit their needs. Schools are advised to begin with modest goals; it is easy to begin the data collection process small and then expand later on across wider areas around campus.