Are Universities Digitally Tracking Students?

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First day of school necessities: paper, pencils, tracking device?

Alarmed with low attendance rates among college students, some universities have turned to electronic attendance programs – digitally tracking if and when students enter their classrooms. Northern Arizona University recently received $85,000 to fund a new tracking initiative that revolves around a series of scanners stationed outside lecture halls. According to NPR, students must scan their ID cards in order to be counted in the day’s roll call, effectively replacing a chorus of sleepy “here’s” with a hailstorm of chirpy beeps. (See photos of homeschoolers.)

But, all this robot speak is for good reason, NAU administrators say. According to research, even missing one class can lower a GPA for first-year students – and because 3 in 10 college freshman end up dropping out, many colleges are enforcing strict attendance policies. But, these high school-esque strategies have some speaking out against universities who try for such tight grips around their students. “Rather than focusing on, ‘Did students go?’ — in other words, ‘Did they scan their card?’ — the more important thing to think about is what are they doing in the classroom; are they actively participating?” Linda DeAngelo with the Higher Education Research institute at UCLA told NPR.

Now, get to class. They’re probably watching you.