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Post-pandemic Strategies for Prospering Classroom Attendance

Give students reasons to attend, here are 3 practical methods to motivate them.

With the abrupt coronavirus pandemic affecting the livelihoods and attendance of students, they face consequences in their education. Online classrooms are here to stay at least as one of the options for colleges. Despite the convenience of attending class remotely from the comfort of their own home, students’ attendance rates for both online and in person learning have dropped significantly. This has been an ongoing issue even before the pandemic, and Covid has accelerated the situation even further.

According to an article by The New York Times, “34 percent of respondents said that no more than one in four students were attending their remote classes” (Goodnough, 2020). These statistics clearly reveal a problematic situation that can lead to increased dropout rates and learning losses for the next generation. Some professors argue that attendance should not be part of the grades. In such cases, it becomes harder for the educators to encourage students to use attendance as an extrinsic motivator.

The question is what would intrinsically motivate the students to attend classes without burdening the educators. As a student studying business at the San Jose State University, I gathered 3 practical methods based on my experience that would motivate the students to attend classes.

Show that you care. Throughout my online learning experience, I’ve faced dull lectures with many of my professors not even putting in the effort to get to know the students. For in person classes, the professors build support and structure for students who may feel independent or are falling behind on tasks. Generally, online classes tend to be harder for the professors to show that they care. Professors can show gestures of support through online office hours and consecutive support emails. However, students who do not respond can complicate things. Some educators might argue that it is the student’s responsibility to reach out. Automated tools through LMS could make the reachout process easier for the professors. Students will feel recognized when educators model caring principles, and as a result, they are motivated to come to class and learn.

Incorporate classroom activities. Students have different levels of attention spans and interests. “There has been a lot of concern that the use of Zoom, particularly recording and posting things later, has led students to develop the mistaken idea that they don’t need to pay attention or be engaged at the time of class because they can just go back and review the recording later” (McMurtrie, 2022). By incorporating activities, it will help maintain stable attendance rates. One example is AskClass. AskClass provides numerous activities on the platform to help educators gain interest the students want. As for students, they may have a higher desire to come to class, if there is an opportunity to interact with other students. Open Questions on AskClass helped me get into the habit of coming early to classes, because that is when I get to hear other students’ stories. I’ve seen attendance rates consistently above 90%, for a large online class with over 100 students. As a participant myself, I felt more comfortable having discussions amongst my peers throughout the course because we had this classroom activity upfront.

Make the class pleasantly frustrating. Jose Antonio Bowen in the 2022 Lecture Breakers Conference, emphasizes Attention Control. An easygoing class will have students thinking they don’t need to attend because they already know how to do the work. On the other hand, a more difficult class will have students giving up. According to Bowen, the task should be “pleasantly frustrating” where students can be progressive and not stressed out (Bowen, 2022). He continues to highlight opportunities for personal growth and applications of relevancy as factors to motivate students to attend. With completed tasks, students will continue to progress in their education and gain new knowledge as the semester continues.

Attendance has traditionally been an extrinsic motivator. The online modality has shifted the importance of attendance amongst students. With these elements of intrinsic motivation applied, students may more likely show up to class, be more engaged, and learn more. Moreover, these behaviors will lead to helping the students be better prepared for the workplaces ahead of them. Educators must adapt to new opportunities and changes to gain their student’s interests, but also adhere to education. Clear positive attendance results lean towards face to face education, though the transition challenges educators and students alike to adjust accordingly.

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