Friday, 24 June 2011

Attendance equals learning?

In the past the success of a lecture was often measured by "attendance"? In the context of social media, does this still hold? Is lack of physical attendance a "bad thing"? What do you think? Comments please!


  1. Well, I have had similar comments recently from my students. With the implementation of our new VLE, we have had some students not attending lectures as frequently because they can 'get them online'. The trouble is, that we are aiming for a blended learning course, not a distance learning course. I often feel that these students miss out on the all-important Q&A section at the end of the lecture - and therefore only get a surface understanding of the topic.

    It really depends on your aims and the content of the social media. Are we teaching students to pass exams or are we teaching them to debate, analyse and evaluate their subject areas?

  2. I usually have 5 mins for Q&A in the lecture when most of the students are not listening. Aren't social media a better medium for Q&A?

  3. Isn't most learning "at a distance"? How much do students actually learn in lecture itself?

  4. Attendance: the act of attending.
    What if 'attendance' is understood to be 'attending to' or 'paying attention'?
    How do we know?

  5. Yes, then it would be possible to "attend" without being there! One way to know if someone is "attending" is through interacting. It seems to me that Social Media are good for this. Traditional lectures are bad. What do you think?

  6. Hi Anonymous (25th June 09:28) - when we started thinking about iTunes U at Goldsmiths I put up a poll on the VLE to find out what would most persuade students to turn up if they could get the recordings. The most chosen response was "Being able to ask questions if there was something I didn't understand", and the second most chosen, "The buzz of hearing directly from somebody eminent in their field" and "The presenter's and students' interaction with visual aids and artefacts."

    There were some less chosen responses about interactivity - not a big reckoning factor it seems - but only a small proportion of students indicated either that they didn't think turning up would be important, or that they did but despite good intentions probably wouldn't turn up. So the students who responded like their lectures!

    Interesting - I think I'll put up that poll again when things get busy in the autumn.

    Students are pretty humble and take their cues about what is important/possible from their lecturers - clearly interaction and participation aren't generally perceived as a big deal in a lecture setting at the moment, but at the same time something distinctive is going on in lectures that loses something when reproduced online.

    However, maybe if you've never experienced that buzz, you wouldn't miss it. And communicating its value a big challenge for places which want to continue face-to-face teaching in the coming years.

  7. Higgo, that is a good question. I think 'attendance' is something that can be measured, and so it stands for contact time, the thing that so many students crave, which has been squeezed as the unit of resource per student has shrunk in recent years.

    So I'm inclined to think that all questions about attendance are really questions about the quality of contact time. What is contact time?

    Students sitting in silence next to each other at a lecture without an opportunity to interact or participate - I can't really convince myself that this is contact time in anything but a literal sense.

    But I've attended some cracking Elluminate events - at the last OU conference I felt particularly connected. Wittering away in the sidebar, I even managed to get a question to Jimmy Wales.

  8. I often find it useful to distinguish between "behavioural" attendance and "cognitive" attendance. It is certainly possible be physically present (behavioural attendance) but not engaged (cognitive attendance) as those students using Facebook in lectures can attest. It is also possible to be engaged but not present as elearning demonstrates.

  9. And I think social software has a lot of potential - for example I've seen use of response systems really engage students (if I'm not stretching the term 'social software' too far - they can really help to cement a community of learners).

    I'm in more than two minds about the use of twitter in lectures. Split attention...