A few weeks ago, University of Indiana Sophomore, Andrew Havill was telling his father Greg about a story he was reading profiling an app called Class 120.
For $199/year, the app uses GPS and WIFI technology to let parents or education institutions know if a student is attending class.
Not only was Greg impressed, but he soon convinced his son to give the required student consent and begin using Class 120. Greg even promised a financial reward if Andrew achieves 100% attendance. Andrew agreed and so far so good…He hasn’t missed a class this semester.
“To be honest, I can never really know what his attendance was prior to using the app,” says Greg.
“I’m not monitoring where my son is at 2:00 AM on a Friday night. I don’t want to know that. I can however, now help hold him accountable and provide incentive to get to class. I strongly believe that there is a correlation between attendance and performance,” Greg adds.
Data supports Havill’s belief. A study by researchers at the State University of New York at Albany found that, “Class attendance appears to be a better predictor of college grades than any other known predictor of college grades—including SAT scores, HSGPA, studying skills, and the amount of time spent studying.”
A study by the Business School at the Humber Institute of Technology & Advanced Learning in Toronto had similar findings.
As for the dollars lost, by some estimates the total cost of unattended classes by college students in the U.S. is $31 billion dollars in tuition alone.
Technology to the Rescue
When Jeff Whorley, founder and CEO at Core Principle created the Class 120 tracking app, he said he was hoping to do for all college students what Division 1 college athletic programs were doing for college athletes. Whorley believes the strict attendance requirements for Division 1 students has a direct impact on their high graduation rates.
“More than 80% of those Division 1 students graduate while about half the freshmen who set out to graduate in 4 years achieve that,” Whorley told BE.
Whorley, a former employee of student loan giant Sallie Mae, did years of research into the cause of low graduation rates. He says an overwhelming number of students he interviewed ran into academic trouble when they started skipping classes.
“Class 120 treats them more like they are going to be treated in the real world. If you don’t show up for work. You’re going to get a call from your supervisor. You’re going to lose pay. You may even be fired,” says Whorley.
“We let the learning institution or the parent provide the incentive a paycheck or employer typically will. Our research shows that students who know they are being tracked go to 2 more classes a week. That’s 240 classes over the course of 4 years, the equivalent of a semester. Think of those costs.”
It’s not just Class 120, the National Science Foundation recently awarded a computer science professor at the Missouri University of Science and Technology $50,000 to develop a facial recognition app that would allow professors to monitor attendance.
Several higher education institutions including, Villanova University and the University of Arkansas are also receiving attention for programs that track student attendance. Harvard was recently in the news after a controversial program in which researchers secretly filmed classrooms to learn how many students were skipping lectures.
Michael Riley, executive director of the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers, told us the practice could become much more widespread as talk out of Washington and state government increases the spotlight on performance-based financial support.
“Schools are taking this more seriously, particularly as campuses move into performance-based funding. Graduation rates of completion are a big metric. So, you have campuses spending more time looking at early warning signs for at risk students. Attendance is a big part of it,” says Riley.
Not One Size Fits All
While tracking technology is expected by many to provide a tremendous incentive for students to go to class, it’s not going to solve the problem for all. The Journal for Blacks in Higher Education says the blacks who undertake working while going to college often find that undertaking both tasks simultaneously is too difficult.
“Class 120 is not going to make every single student graduate” says CEO Whorley. “But it can have a dramatic impact on the lives of many,” he adds.
We will soon find out. In the few weeks Class 120 it has been on the market, more than 2,000 students and parents have signed on.