I got the perfect attendance award each year in high school, and so did my brother. My mother’s attitude toward school attendance was similar to an army drill sergeant’s. If my internal organs were still in their proper places inside of my body, I was going to school. We lived 700 metres from the school’s football field, so even in inclement weather, she sent us.
When I was hired as an e-learning teacher, I figured there wouldn’t be any attendance issues because students do not really have to “attend” anywhere. I don’t call out their names and put Ps and As next to their names anymore. However, online attendance and absenteeism is a glaring issue. In D2L, I can login and see the last time a student has logged in. I can also “impersonate” each student and see which content they’ve looked at.
I try to be quite vigilant. If I haven’t seen a student login in 48 hours (and it hasn’t been a weekend), red flags start to show. I follow a series of steps:
- I make a phone call. I teach adults, a lot of whom come from a low socioeconomic background. There is a good chance that the device or Internet connection they have had been lost, cut off, or all manner of things. If I can communicate by phone, the student and I can usually work out a plan to solve the issue. This is usually as far as it needs to go.
- If they don’t return my calls, I try sending an e-mail to their personal e-mail address. I always get one of these from them for emergencies. I don’t e-mail them through D2L, because if they haven’t logged in, they won’t see it.
- I call the registering centre where the student registered for e-learning to find out more info. Perhaps the student has been in to see the office and I haven’t heard yet.
- I wait. Sometimes a student has just gone AWOL for 3 or 4 days. They often come back. Then we talk about communication. I always encourage students to send me a quick message that says that they’re going to be away for a few days.
The most important thing I try to teach the students is communication. They just need to give me a heads up. Occasionally I do lose a student. The student goes AWOL, and no one hears from them for weeks. Then the course concludes, and they aren’t successful. Then, they’ve registered again for the next session. When they start again, I try to have a coaching conversation with the student. I want to know if I can do anything to help make it easier for the student to log in and get the work done.
Sidebar rant: I wish free devices and free Internet were available for students. The main reason these students take e-learning is because they cannot be in school in the daytime. It is on them to have their own computer and Internet connection. WiFi is available everywhere now, which means a student could complete their work in a coffee shop, so the bigger issue is devices. Realistically, we can’t buy laptops for everyone who doesn’t have one, but I wish there was a way that we could. Perhaps one day I will….