Taking Attendance When Technology is Present: Using Magnetic Swipe Readers

During the Fall 2013 semester, Professors Ted Joyce, Sean Crocket and David Jaeger conducted an experiment to determine whether differences exist in student educational outcomes between the hybrid and traditional class formats. Students in the hybrid section were required to meet once per week, while students in the traditional format class were required to meet twice per week.

Objective

In order to identify whether the disparity in the number of class sessions affected student performance, Professor Joyce needed to implement an attendance procedure that was both expedient and accurate. Kevin Wolf and Joe Albanese of the Baruch Computing and Technology Center (BCTC) were committed to developing an attendance system that could accomplish the following objectives: 1) quickly check in students as they entered the classroom, and 2) enable attendance data to be retained locally and also on Baruch’s network.

A functional description of the approach

A magnetic swipe scanner is attached to a computer with internet connectivity. A web browser is pointed to https://www.baruch.cuny.edu/stucheck/. Students’ Baruch identification cards are passed through the scanner (just as they are swiped through the turnstiles to enter the Vertical Campus).  The swipe scanner reads the data encoded on the magnetic barcode. To confirm that the student’s attendance has been recorded, the browser refreshes and displays the name of the student along with a customizable message such as “Attendance Registered”.

The Required Materials

  • USB Magnetic Swipe Reader and a computer connected to the internet.
  • Web browser pointed to https://www.baruch.cuny.edu/stucheck/. An unlock password is required to create a writable file.

Approximate Set-up Time

  • 3-5 minutes.

Approximate Implementation Cost

  • Magnetic Swipe Scanner $50-$100 (one-time purchase, reusable)

Discussion             

The method utilized by Professor Joyce provided an accurate attendance count. One limitation of the approach is that it required someone to physically swipe the students’ barcodes.  Students were not capable of independently swiping their barcodes quickly enough to avoid delaying the process.

When students’ barcodes are swiped, the data is read off of the magnetic strip and matched to the registrar’s database of students in real time. For Professor Joyce, this was an important attribute of the process since he was able to use the database information to control for differences in individual student characteristics (e.g., class year, major, etc.) in his study.

Implementation

For additional details, kindly contact the author: Ethan.Kinory@Baruch.cuny.edu.

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