Complicated, Inflexible and Messy – Lecturer on the experience of SEAtS at UAL

I have prior experience with the system.

SEAtS was introduced during the second year of my post as lecturer at LCC, UAL. I was initially pleased about the proposition of using software to record student attendance, given that the existing system was cumbersome. Through experience I learned however that the issues relating to the recording of student attendance stemmed from communications issues within the university, particularly how information is communicated between different departments within the university (e.g. registry, school, course (degree program)). A typical example of the cumbersome nature of attendance recording would be that as a lecturer you would not necessarily know which students were submitting deferred assessments, re-siting modules, or who had withdrawn. The introduction of SEAts did not actually address any of these preceding issues: in fact, it added a range of complications in terms of the way that information was platformed and communicated.

To be clear, I agree that as course and module convenors we should be able to access a snapshot view of a given student’s attendance across their course. However, my view is that the more local the university can be in its software use and data collection the better, for both ethical (data rights) and practical reasons (relating to the purpose of monitoring attendance).

In previous experience SEAtS raised the following issues:

  1. Who’s recorded as being in class is an effect of who taps the right card on the right card reader. Any student can tap in with another student’s card (i.e. can tap in to cover absenteeism). If there is a room change, or class takes place outside of the registered room, students cannot tap in. They may tap into another class instead. In such cases the lecturer or seminar leader must manually tap students in (record presence) on the online interface.
  2. The automation of settings for lateness and absence create restrictions that affect accuracy of record keeping. What if a student taps in but then leaves early? Etc. Adjustments need to be made by hand.
  3. Will Goldsmiths be providing an electronic device to everyone who is in class to cut out the paper register stage? When I used SEAts I used a university laptop and watched everyone check in online on my screen: I then enquired with students who hadn’t tapped in. There was at least one, for one reason or another (they may simply forget) in every single class. This process was much more messy than calling a register as it doesn’t offer the habitual rhythm of class starting that a register provides. Also it means you’re singling out those who haven’t tapped in (did they leave their cards at home, forget as they entered class, etc.?) This also all depends on the software and wifi working.

The automation of letter/email sending to students creates inflexibility and creates a separate level of work for the teacher who is in communication with the student as they have to navigate the way that data is stored and used in a centralised system over which they cannot exert control. The best process is for seminar leaders to contact students who are absent from class themselves. This is part of the responsibility of leading a seminar. Moreover, administrative correspondence is usually only issued after a certain number of classes have been missed in succession, allowing several weeks to pass before the question of their absenteeism is made.

  1. With SEAtS, when the tech is down, the register is down.

Overall: SEAtS does not remove the responsibility from the lecturer or seminar leader to identify who is in class, to keep a register of this information and process it accordingly, but adds further complications.