Mandating class attendance is a terrible way to go
Despite what United Airlines would like you to believe, the golden rule of customer service still states that the customer is always right.
Every industry — restaurant, hotel, retail, etc. — follows that golden rule except one; educational institutions always seem to make paying customers at fault.
The latest fault being placed on students is the low performance metrics as evaluated by the state.
Rumors of a new effort to improve four-year graduation rates and academic performance have started to circulate. FGCU may be thinking about making classroom attendance mandatory at an institutional level.
The university has somehow deemed that the reason students aren’t performing well is because they don’t go to class. To be fair, this is a valid assessment to make if you are absolutely clueless about students, education or academic performance.
It’s the type of surface level assumption we’ve grown to expect from people that haven’t sat in classes in over 30 years.
Any student that actually cares about their education and truly believes that going to class will allow them to succeed isn’t going to miss class unless it’s an emergency.
That means that the students missing class either don’t care about their education or don’t believe in their classes.
Since I doubt anyone is willingly spending $203.94 per credit hour — $838.73 for our out-of-state peers — on something they don’t care about, it’s safe to say that students don’t feel that attending class is beneficial to their education.
Also, if students don’t care about a class, making attendance mandatory isn’t going to have anything but a negative impact.
Again, to be fair, the reason they feel comfortable relating grades to attendance is because of attendance/participation grades.
Without professors giving academic incentives for students to come to class, everyone is on the same playing field.
In a class where attendance is 10 percent of the total grade, students who show up are automatically a letter grade above those who don’t.
What the university has done is put the students at fault, rather than acknowledge some potential roots of the problem.
Some classes have flat-out difficult material, and when a class has a less than 50 percent pass rate, maybe it’s not because the students don’t show up.
Some professors recite the book or online slide shows that students can read at home.
Some classes consist of only exams, so attendance doesn’t matter if students can’t pass a test at the end.
For example, my Business Law course this semester combines all three of those characteristics. The total course grade comes from three exams, a professor that reads a PowerPoint every class and business law is complicated enough.
Most of the class doesn’t go unless it’s an exam day because there just isn’t any reason to. Showing up won’t affect their final grade.
If FGCU really wants students to come to class, here are some suggestions: make sure professors are actually teaching information and not just regurgitating a text book, add a classwork component to the course or offer extra credit to those students with perfect attendance.
When students come to class, they’re coming for something they can’t get on their own. Whether the professor is giving extra help or providing examples, that sought-out information will attract attendance.
Some professors offer an attendance section of the final grade, but those who don’t could at least reward attendance with a little extra credit.
If a student has an 88 percent with perfect attendance, a professor could bump that grade to reward their efforts.
Most classes these days are just lectures. Without any extra information or incentives, students would need a classwork component in order to show up. Even small group activities or in-class assignments may help students get engaged.
I took a class last summer that consisted of just lectures and quizzes; I got a 97 percent without ever staying past the quizzes.
That’s because when I pay to take a course, I’m not paying so that I have a classroom to show up to, a desk to sit in or a professor to lecture me. I pay so that I can learn information that gives me credits toward a degree.
None of my future employers are going to ask me how often I went to class so long as I have my degree with a high GPA.
In mandating attendance, the university would be ignoring its own faults in order to blame the students.
As paying customers, students have a right to not attend class. We are paying for a service, and it’s our choice whether or not to use it.
Does attending class help students? Sometimes.
Should attendance be mandatory? Never.