Handling the First-Week Attendance Rule

Image of hands raised as if taking attendance

Many UWP courses require students to attend the first week of instruction, or risk being dropped from the course. Instructors have asked what that policy might look like in fully-online courses. The Director of the UWP offers this guidance:

We will maintain our existing policy about first week attendance, which is that any student who doesn't attend class during the first week and/or doesn't respond to emails about their absence can be administratively dropped. So that raises the big question: What does "attend" mean, under these conditions?  I've asked various people, from Rodney to a range of UWP instructors, for their ideas, and here's a short list:

  1. Use the "People" tool in Canvas to see which students have been logging into the Canvas site during the first week (or ever). In the People section, "Last Activity" and "Total Activity" shows you who has been around and who hasn't.
  2. Have some kind of deliverable--a short questionnaire (you can use Canvas Quizzes for this), a discussion board post, a brief written task submitted through Assignments--that you can use as evidence that the student has "attended" that week. This can do double-duty as you help students get used to Canvas tools that you'll be employing during the course.
  3. If you are meeting synchronously (live) during class time, take attendance as you would in class. For example, you could ask each student attending to leave a quick comment in the Chat room; if you're recording the session, the Chat will be captured. (However, please be generous if a student misses a live class meeting and otherwise communicates with you or completes an assignment or post or questionnaire.)

It is vital that instructors communicate with students about their expectations for attendance, what will count as attending the first week, etc.