UMKC Attendance App

Several years ago, I was introduced to a home-grown mobile application that allowed students to check in to classes and allowed instructors to keep track of attendance in a paperless format. The application back then had horrible reviews and no further efforts were made to improve it.

Recently, due to staffing changes among other things, I was asked to figure out a better way to manage attendance for the law school. Per the American Bar Association standards, regular class attendance is required as a condition for receiving course credit. So, having a good attendance tracking process is a necessity for law schools.

There are several off-the-shelve products to manage attendance. Some of them are embedded with learning management systems. Others are stand-alone programs. But none of them answered all our needs:

  • Allow self-checking,
  • Allow support staff to manage classes,
  • Generate real-time attendance reports,
  • Little or no maintenance is required,
  • And finally, a system that can also work for those who prefer to take attendance on paper.

Instead of investing in a commercial solution that might not work well for us, I decided to bring the existing application and work with the original developers to improve it.

In the first semester we used the new attendance system, it was a disaster. It was buggy. Attendance records were inaccurate. We were spending more time recording attendance using the application than we did with paper. Overall, it was not going to work and something needed to be done. Purchasing an existing solution was out of the question. Our only solution was to fix what we have.

With the support of my Dean and the original development team, we dedicated two improvement sprints to fix the existing issues and add much-needed improvements.

As of this time, we have a functional system and I haven’t heard a single complaint.

The Attendance App development by UMKC IS team is composed of two platforms. A dedicated mobile application is available for Apple iOS and Google Android that students can use to check in to classes as well as check their attendance history. And an online platform that allows instructors and authorized users to manage their class and track attendance.

Most of the work was done on the online platform and so far we have been able to accomplish the following:

  • Custom check-in time for classes.
  • Possibility to cancel a class time or add a new one.
  • Possibility to set a maximum number of absences allowed and send email notification when a student reaches that number and another email when they pass it.
  • Possibility to update attendance records in bulk.
  • Classes and users are synchronized daily with the campus registrar system.
  • Quick preview of total absences for the entire class.
  • Detailed report of attendance for each student.
  • The overall report of attendance for all students and all classes (available only to the Deans).

In the future, we hope to be able to add additional improvements such as adding a class roster and a seating chart.

What made this project challenging and also exciting is that changes were made in real-time. For some, the process was stressful, and opted out of the real-time tracking features.  to Others were more engaged with the process and didn’t hesitate to share their feedback with the developing team.

One thing for sure is that users appreciate when they are consulted and given the opportunity to participate in the development of solutions that they (alone) will be using. This strategy allowed me to convert the most critical members to champions knowing they can trust me on making sure their needs and concerns are being met.