Student Attendance Management Systems – Frequently Asked Questions by Students
BQuSAMS have been looking into the introduction of Attendance Management Systems for UK universities from the student perspective. Our research has highlighted areas that the students want to know more about.
We thought it would be helpful to share this information and to also to get your feedback. Are these the same questions that your students are asking and what others would you suggest?
Why are universities considering different attendance recording processes?
The prime reason for this is to ensure that universities are able to comply with United Kingdom Borders Agency (UKBA) requirements for retaining sponsorship licences for overseas students outside of the EU.
In addition, it is proven that a positive impact on attendance can be beneficial to students. Research has shown that attendance monitoring can help identify students in need of support and enable University staff to intervene to improve the chances of a student’s successful completion.
What is a Student Attendance Management System (SAMS)?
SAMS is a system which can log and record each student’s attendance, linking to a student records system and to the timetable so it can record whether students attend a specific class. This allows appropriate follow-up where there is unauthorised absence. Data on attendance can be made available to academic and administrative staff that need it. Data is collected using biometric fingerprint scanners so that all students can confirm their attendance without involving academic staff and causing minimum disruption to classes.
Why is a biometric system the best choice?
The continued collection of signatures on class lists can interrupt classes and be time-consuming to both academic staff and students. Unfortunately, genuine signatures can’t always be verified.
The use of smartcards can be quick and may be less disruptive to classes, but also has the problem known as ‘buddy punching’ – i.e. a student will hold the card for him/herself and a number of other students and will scan in the cards of friends.
Once data has been gathered by these means, there is a considerable amount of pure data processing and checking, which is very time consuming and costly. Administrative staff can be overwhelmed, leaving them little time for actually managing and reporting.
Biometric fingertip scanning is a quick and non-disruptive option that removes the buddy punching problem. It is quick and easy for students and academic staff to use, ensuring that valuable time is used for the proper purpose.
A system will provide reliable information on attendance immediately to the staff that needs it.
Why not just monitor international students?
Universities have a duty of care to all students. The information provided by the SAMS could be vital in the event of a forced evacuation and an ensuing roll call. There are also logistical and ethical difficulties to consider, which could be more time consuming if particular student groups have to be treated differently.
Why do universities have to comply?
UK laws were changed recently and to admit international students from outside the EU, universities had to apply for a licence from UKBA. In applying for a licence each university had to accept UKBA terms. UKBA have made it clear that if universities do not like the terms they have the choice not to admit international students – and UKBA have demonstrated at London Metropolitan University what may happen if a university does not fulfil their obligations. The University must therefore comply with UKBA.
Will the use of scanners cause queues to enter lecture rooms?
There are a number of options available for the types of scanners that can be used. They range from a reader that is attached to a laptop or tablet via USB lead (suitable for smaller groups of up to 40 people) to small portable scanners that are passed around to each individual who is registering and is then connected to the system. This also has the advantage of storing the registration data, so it gives enormous flexibility for location use. It can even be used outside, so there are no limitations around things like field trips.
Each person registers and is recognised in less than half a second. Compare that to taking a register, or to signing in.
Is my personal data safe?
It is important to note that there are no ‘human rights’ issues in respect of students ‘fingerprints’.
This is because there is no image of the fingerprint either read or stored. Instead, the reader measures the changes in electrical conductivity at a number of places across the reader surface and translates these into a unique number.
It is this unique number, alone, that is stored in the database. It is not possible to ‘reverse engineer’ the number into any form of finger pattern or fingerprint.
The electrical conductivity varies with the peaks and troughs of the finger surface and since these are different in all persons, this guarantees that the number generated is unique.
The data (i.e. the secondary biometrics numerical value) would be held securely by a university and in accordance with the Data Protection Act.
We hope that this proves to be helpful and interesting and would value your feedback and contributions.
Also, please see a recently published news article at http://thepienews.com/news/uk-biometric-management-system-for-unis-hits-market/