George Lucas Educational Foundation

Managing HS student attendance

Managing HS student attendance

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I am online teacher for students of all grades level. I am trying to make my classes as active and energetic as I can; whenever I hear about a new online tool I do my best to apply it in my classes.

I have an issue with HS students as I can't control their attendance. I am sending them reminders before class time, sending them the recording after the class to watch it, and calling them from time to time to discuss the reason beyond their absences but they always replay " sorry miss , I'll do my best to catch up".

I understand that HS students are always busy and they have much load over them, but I want them to feel more responsible toward their study.

Can you please help me with some tips?


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Becky Fisher's picture
Becky Fisher
Education Consultant

Hi Zainab,

This is a tricky one. There are tons of resources out there to monitor attendance, but very few to hold students accountable. My advice would be to either gamify student attendance OR create some sort of group project that makes students accountable for the success of their peers.

To gamify student attendance, there would have to be some sort of reward system in place. For example, students who attend class get a point for every class they attend. Those who reach over a certain amount of points get extra credit or first choice on a project or something related.

For group projects, students generally feel more accountable when their peers are relying on them. Give students 10 minutes at the end of every class to work on their project, or gamify this as well. Groups with perfect attendance get extra credit.

This may seem very extrinsically motivated, but it helps students develop these very important skills like showing up and participating. I hope these ideas help!

Laura Thomas's picture
Laura Thomas
Director, Antioch University New England Center for School Renewal, Author of Facilitating Authentic Learning, Director of the Antioch Critical Skills Program; Elementary Library Media Specialist

I agree with Becky- gamification and collaboration can help. I'd also check in with the students about *why* they're taking an online course. As an online instructor myself, I find the many learners- especially adolescents- like the idea of online coursework ("I can go to class in my pajamas from my bedroom!") but lack the skills to follow through when necessary ("I should check in on my class but I'd rather nap or play MInecraft or text my BFF. I'll do it later."). Clear expectations about what you mean by "participation" could help- I let me students know that they should spend 30 minutes 3 times a week reading the posts of their classmates and/or reading/ viewing the assigned materials AND an hour a week composing their own responses to the prompt for the week.

Still, we have to recognize that sometimes kids are going to fail. If we can help them reflect on what they should have done differently, we can help them to grow from the experience.

Good luck!

Zainab's picture
K-12 teacher from UAE, Dubai

Hi Becky,

Thank you very much for the advice, I like the idea of gamifying students attendance, I expect it to make a big difference with HS students as they are highly concerned about their grades.

I appreciate your help., thanks again.


Zainab's picture
K-12 teacher from UAE, Dubai

Hi Laura,

Actually, my participation expectations are similar to yours but my students show low participation recorded.

I agree with you on the importance of knowing the reason beyond joining online courses and it can be a first step to find the solution. I think gamifying my classes would make difference

Thank you for your replay, I appreciate your help.


Whitney Hoffman's picture
Whitney Hoffman
Producer LD Podcast, Digital Media Consultant, Author

This is interesting to me, as we look, in general, towards how we can integrate online and in person learning even in the context of a regular school district.
Clearly, the students have to have a reason to show up for class, virtually or in person. There are carrots and sticks involved in both venues. Then there may be issues with the kids who are self-selecting for online classes- are these kids with ADHD who have a tough time with time management skills already? Are there ways to help them set up say, Google alerts across their phones and devices to serve as reminders? What do they miss by not attending class directly? Is the video "good enough" so therefore they don't see a point of making class time a priority?
Can you ask them questions to get to the bottom of the issue and get helpful rather than pat answers?
I love the gamification idea and placing meaningful incentives for attendance- I imagine teaching an online class makes it even more important to be able to grab and sustain their attention throughout the classtime- can you monitor that or get feedback from them about what works and what doesn't?
Otherwise, I think we're all just guessing at why they are lax about meeting their classroom schedule.

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