How to take attendance in your classroom

During this uncertain time, many schools have decided to do remote learning, but some classrooms have opted in for in-person learning. If you're reading this post, you are likely interested in taking attendance in your classroom. Benefits of taking attendance include tracking student grade performance to physical presence and maintaining attendance logs for contact tracing.

So how do most teachers take attendance?

There are a few solutions out there -

  1. LMS (Learning Management System), leaders include CanvasBlackboard Learn, and Google Classroom.
  2. Paper & pencil sheets, with help from Excel or Google sheet templates.
  3. Apps like TopHatSchoolPass, or OneTap digital check-in app

What are the pros and cons of each solution?

LMS systems are usually large pieces of software that manage a lot of different aspects of student data ranging from grades, parent contact information, class schedule to comprehensive student records. From talking to teachers, we’ve learned that LMS are the ideal systems for taking attendance but usually don’t offer the most convenient user interface for taking daily attendance. Also, most teachers are stuck with the software the school decided a long time ago, choosing a new LMS is a long, time consuming, and tedious process with many stakeholders involved. 

Advantages -

  • All-in-one system; Every data point lives in one place.
  • No learning curve; Most teachers know how to use their LMS.

Disadvantages - 

  • Slow for tracking attendance; Some LMS systems may not be user friendly for this use case.
  • Limited portability; Some LMS systems may not work on tablets or smartphones.

Looking for an LMS system? G2 crowd has a great comparison page.

CanvasBlackboard Learn, and Google Classroom are the leaders in this category.

Paper & pencil sheets, with handy Excel or Google sheet templates, are quick to implement and it can get the job done. However, teachers have told us that their workload increases exponentially towards the end of the reporting period (e.g. quarter, semester, trimester, school year) when they have to tally up the attendance points. On top of that, during this pandemic, the check-in/sign-in process requires constant sanitization. 

Advantages -

  • Quick to set up.
  • Cheap to implement; Costs are limited to printing.
  • Fewest materials or supplies required; Don’t need an iPad or tablet.

Disadvantages - 

  • Increased workload; Teachers have told us that their workload increases exponentially towards the end of the reporting period (e.g. quarter, semester, trimester, school year) when they have to tally up the attendance points. 
  • Requires constant sanitization; During this pandemic, the check-in/sign-in process should be hygienic.

Looking for a good temple?

Apps are a great way to take attendance. They sit in the middle of the spectrum between sophisticated LMS systems and analog methods like paper & pencil. Teachers who are looking for a modern solution enjoy easy-to-use user interfaces, frequent updates, and the convenience of mobile devices. Some apps offer unique and creative ways for students to check-in. E.g. TopHat lets you add polls in your lecture slides and students can check-in using SMS/text messages).

Advantages -

  • Easier to use; User interfaces tend to be better.
  • Faster; Typically faster to check-in students than paper and pencil.
  • Accurate data & better reports; Generate attendance reports faster.
  • Fast setup; Easier to download and set up than LMS systems.
  • Convenient + Modern solution; Utilize the latest tech in your classroom, works on mobile devices.

Disadvantages - 

  • Additional costs; These apps charge fees.
  • Learning curve; You will have to learn a new system and you may have to get the buy-in from other teachers or staff.
  • Evaluation process; Your school may have to agree to the terms of service and privacy policy from these vendors.
  • Some manual data input may be required; You may have to manually input your previous attendance records and these apps may not integrate with your LMS for data export.

Looking for a good classroom attendance app?

About OneTap - 

OneTap is a digital check-in app used by K12 schools like North Carolina’s Charlotte Mecklenburg schools, and educational institutions like UCLA, University of, and Oakland.