How do you take attendance (or engagement)?

How do you take attendance (or engagement)?

Using Wiki in Education
Image by inju via Flickr

When the students are directly in front of you, it is easy. You count up the number of kids and see just who they are. There you go: attendance.

When you use wikis and blogs, but the kids are still staring at you during the day, it is still pretty easy. Count up the kids. Measure the contributions. Viola: attendance and participation.

When you do not see the kids every day (or at all) and your class IS the wiki or blog. How, then, do you measure attendence? If you had to report out on whether or not a student was present on any given day, can you turn to the edits that they made on the wiki or comments on the blog and say that they attended? If we start to measure the quality of the edit or the level of thought behind a comment, then we are starting to measure something different entirely. We are measuring engagement.

But, perhaps that is what we should be measuring anyway. Perhaps we should not have information systems that measure whether or not your body was there physically or your eyes were scanning the material, but if, instead, you were truly engaged and making substinative contributions to the classroom environment.

The reason why I am thinking about this right now is I have to decide if an LMS is truly worth the effort to set up for adult learners. Is it important to have courses held within a place that requires a login and allows for a lot less co-creation, or can I have a course held entirely in a wiki, producing a network of learners that are continually making the course and the learning experience better?

I came across this course the other day and I think that it describes quite  a little bit of what I am talking about. In this course, all participants go through the wiki’s activities and discussions as they co-create knowledge. But, who is to say that anyone actually attended? Would we be able to say to a learning institution (school, state department of education, university) that this list of people underwent professional development of the caliber that would advance their degree, their continuing education credts, or is it just a nice experience.

So, I guess my question is two fold:

  1. Can we take attendence on a wiki/blog or do we need an LMS?
  2. Do we need a different paradigm for tracking learners that focuses on engagement rather than attendance (and how do we get there)?
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  1. I think a wiki would be a perfect tool for an adult learning environment. In a constructivist learning environment, a wiki would allow you to physically see knowledge acquisition. Projects would be posted, team member participation can be viewed and the wiki would grow with the class. Sounds exciting! However, I do feel some adults need some of the structure provided by an LMS. For example, some adults need to see a syllabus, grades, defined roles of instructor and student, due dates etc. But perhaps these could be built into the wiki?

    Good Luck with your choice!

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  2. You may have noticed in the Flexible Learning course, that a significant % of the assessment in that course is formative, and because of that – if I understand the purpose of your question correctly, attendance is inherently evident. The facilitators record individual progress on a spread sheet, and periodically give feedback to participants by leaving comments on their blogs. The course also holds regular web conferences, as well as makes telephone calls to participants to gauge levels of motivation, engagement and needs. At the bottom of the wiki, you will see attribution to other courses that use the no-LMS model.

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