This week, The University Times reported that students in final-year social work were unhappy with the implementation of an attendance-tracking app. Attendance tracking for students on such a course is not new: in fact, it’s a requirement of all professional courses in Trinity. But it’s unnecessary, patronising and intrusive.
It’s foolish to believe that every student in a given lecture is paying rapt attention and taking precise notes. Attendance does not equal attentiveness – it never did.
There are also obvious problems with using a smartphone app to log physical presence in a lecture theatre. Students reported that there was no quick process for marking a student as “excused” rather than “absent”. There are umpteen valid reasons why one simply couldn’t get to a lecture hall on any given day. The School said that there are mechanisms in place to help students who are missing lots of lectures, but this doesn’t seem to be the case: students told this newspaper that the app does not immediately update their attendance record if they tell the School why they missed a lecture.
There were concerns that students were signing in for their friends who weren’t actually at a lecture. But that’s not really the point: students have to take responsibility for their own progress. If they are unwilling to attend class out of laziness, or never pay attention while there, that’s on them. But if that is never revealed in exams results, that’s on Trinity.
It seems that College is looking for a way to ensure that students have actively and fully participated in a course, and that they have actually learned what it taught, rather than memorised a textbook a few days before an exam. That is not an attendance issue – it’s an examination issue. If Trinity, or CORU, the regulatory body for social workers, thinks the current assessment frameworks are not robust enough, the answer is simple: implement a more competent examination system. If they do not think so, then the app was never needed anyway.
College students are not children. They should not have their attendance records hung over their heads like this.
Correction: April 5th, 2022
An earlier version of this article incorrectly implied that the School of Social Work sets its own policy on mandatory attendance at lectures. In fact, Trinity’s policy is that all professional courses must have mandatory lectures.