Friday, October 16, 2009

Attendance at Tutorials

This semester I have been monitoring tutorial attendance closely and contacting students who have not attended. A common response I have received is that, as attendance is not compulsory, the student does not think it is important to attend tutorials. I am astounded by this view. How do students think they will acquire the understanding necessary to successfully complete the assessment items if they do not attend classes?

Evidence of the lack of attendance is in the following two graphs:

My problem is: how do I convince students that attendance at tutorials is the most important factor in acquiring the understanding to successfully complete the assessment tasks? I do not want to set "participation marks" to force attendance when there is not a pedagogical reason for having a participation mark.

Balancing Study and Work

Contemporary Issues in Accounting is undertaken primarily by accounting students in the final semester of their degree.  Many of the students are working full-time in the industry.  Some of the students who are working full-time are also studying full-time.  I do not know how they intend to cope with the workload and pass.

Many students have told me that they are having difficulty balancing study and work.  I have been sympathetic with assessment deadlines for these students where their employer has verified that the student is required to work greater hours than expected.  But that is only a partial solution and is only effective if the excessive work commitments are for a few weeks only.  Extending deadlines is of no use if the excessive work commitments last for a substantial part of the semester.

Several students seem to think that work commitments are sufficient reasons for not attending lectures and tutorials.  While attendance at class is not compulsory, acquisition of understanding is.  Attendance at class is one of the key ingredients for attaining that understanding for most students.  I do not know how these students think they will attain the understanding if they do not attend class.  The materials provided to support learning are not designed to support distance learning, nor are they sufficient for that purpose.  They are designed to complement face-to-face delivery.  I do not know how to get this through to these students - announcing it in class is clearly a waste of time.

Students at Risk - Weeks 9 - 13

There were no tutorials in weeks 8-10 and there were no online tests running in weeks 10 & 11.

Starting in week 11, I continued my routine emails to students not attending tutorials.  I have now divided the messages into three standards:  A gentle reminder to students who have missed only 1 or 2 tutorials; a warning of poor performance to students who have missed more that 2 but less than half of the tutorials and a severe warning to students who have missed more than half the tutorials.  I have also sent SMS messages using the SMS manager system messages to students who have missed more than half the tutorials.

I sent emails to students who did not attempt the 4th online test and to students who performed poorly on that test.  A week before and again 2 days before the 5th online test closed, I sent emails to all students who had not yet attempted the test.  I also sent the message by SMS 2 days before the test closed.

I received greater responses to the SMS than I did to the email.  One student objected to being contacted by SMS.  Several students thanked me for the SMS about the test closing in 2 days.  About half of the students who received the SMS about tutorial attendance have contacted me.  Some of them are adamant that they will study their own way and will not come to lectures and tutorials.  Most, however have been promised to change their ways - while I have the promise, I do not have evidence yet of the promise being complied with.  This constant emailing and messaging has identified a few students with ongoing health problems impairing their performance.  I have directed these students to the supports services offered by the University and encouraged them to seek professional help.