Volume 1: Reimagining Remote Teaching, Issue 3 | GCTC

Volume 1: Reimagining Remote Teaching, Issue 3

by Dr. Kerri McKenna - August 6, 2020

The question I have received repeatedly this week is incredibly simple, but the solution is so overwhelming people are struggling to answer: What do I do with attendance?

The next few paragraphs will attempt to provide some guidance in tackling one of the hardest parts of your class preparation for 4202!

Spring 2020

Spring 2020 was all about survival. We were sinking and doing everything we could to keep our noses above water so we could breath. Our students were thrown into situations where they were working extra hours as essential workers, becoming teachers, and coping with our new reality. And none of that remotely addressed what WE were going through.

In turn, we did everything we could to support our students by showing as much grace as possible with our students. We did not require synchronous classes, held virtual office hours, and contacted our students as much as we could.

Fall 2020

Now we are a few more months into 2020 and we are getting ready to start 4204. We have decided our face to face classes are going to be synchronous, remote classes housed through blackboard, and we are faced with the challenge of attendance.

Simply put: There is no right or wrong answer here. There is no mandated expectation or requirement. Faculty can set their attendance policy as they want, just like they were provided a similar opportunity in their face to face classes.

I know, I know. All these decisions make our heads hurt. In an effort to help ease your headache, I have provided a few best practices and sample attendance policies to help you craft your own.

Best Practices

  • Make participation in class worth part of your grade. Do not focus on attendance this semester. Use polls, quizzes, during-class discussion board posts, and small group activities to keep your students engaged during each class session. Consider asking your students to submit group discussion notes for completion grades, write an end of class reflection, or a follow-up homework assignment which can only be completed if they attended class. Make sure your participation grade covers between 10 – 30% of your overall grade.
  • When grading in-class work, you do not always need to provide feedback. Nor do you need to scrutinize their content. Sometimes, a completion grade is enough. For example, provide a rubric which is as simple as this:
    • 100% - Student attended class and participated in all activities. The submission shows exceptional reflection on the day’s discussion.
    • 80% - Student attended class and participated in all activities. The submission shows reflection on the day’s discussion but does require more exploration. Please make sure you answer three questions when reflecting: 1). What was the most important piece of information you need to share? 2). Why is this information so important to understand? and 3.) How does this information help you understand the bigger picture in the course?
    • 50% - Student did not attend class and did not participate in group activities. Additionally, the student did not contact the professor about their absence(s). The student completed and submitted the assignments independently. 
    • 0% - The student did not participate in class or complete the assignment.
  • While it is important we keep our student expectations high when it comes to attending class, we must also remember to provide flexibility when it comes to some absences. Students who have title IX concerns, medical documentation for illness, jury duty, military service, or school sponsored events, should receive excused absences from class. When this happens, you should allow your students to complete the small group assignments independently for their participation grade. These situations should allow students to earn either 100% or 80% for their grade. 
  • And, as faculty, we all know there are students who do not attend class or communicate why they were absent. Instead, they will log into class and complete the day’s in-class work independently. If you review the rubric, you will see this situation makes a student eligible to receive 50% of their participation grade.

Sample Policies

Please review these sample policies. I hope they can assist you when crafting your own.

Policy #1

Your attendance in our virtual classroom is extremely important for your success. In turn, your attendance and participation in class is worth 30% of your final grade. Your participation will be evaluated based on your engagement with classroom polls, activities, in-class quizzes, and reflection assignments during our remote, synchronous sessions.

I will take attendance multiple times during each of our live sessions. Your attendance and participation will make up 30% of your final grade, so poor engagement will negatively impact your final grade.

Excused absences will only be provided for title IX, military orders, jury duty, documented medical absences, and school-sponsored activities. These exceptions must be documented before the absence or as soon as possible when it is not possible to communicate with me prior to the situation.

Policy #2

The instructor will take attendance at the beginning of each class, as well as through classwork that is submitted during our live session. If you come to class late, it is your responsibility to ensure the instructor marks you present before the end of class (via email), or you will be marked absent. All absences and partial absences will be counted toward the in-class participation grade, no matter what the reason. The only exceptions will be made for title IC, illness with a doctor’s not, military orders, school-sponsored events, or jury duty. These exceptions must be documented prior to the absence.