What to do about session attendance monitoring?

The last months have not been Collaborates finest hour in relation to session attendance reporting.

Collaborate giveth and Collaborate taketh away…

Over the summer we updated the building block which amongst other things brought with it the ability to view a list of students that attended a session via the Blackboard interface. No longer did the session have to be linked to Grade Centre and a grade given just to monitor attendance or a special request have to be made to myself to provide a report. Within a few weeks however we learned that actually this list wasn’t always accurate and a bug had been introduced into the interpretation of the log from the main Collaborate system. The information recorded was correct but the information displayed was not. This now meant we were actually worse off than before as the “link to Grade Centre feature” was now also displaying incorrect data.

All was not lost as we could simply revert to me providing the data when requested. However upon providing these reports to a particularly interested member of staff, it was highlighted that there were some inconsistencies between the the times logged for the students joining/leaving sessions and the reported “Active Time” in a session. In some instances these inconsistencies were perfectly explainable.

The report shows “First Join” and “Last Leave”. Between these times the student may have joined and left on several occasions. This would indicate an “Active Time” less than the time between the two values displayed.

  • For instance a student may have joined at 5pm, left at 5:15pm, rejoined at 5:30pm and leaving for a second and last time at 5:45pm.
    This would mean the values reported would be:
    First Join – 5pm, Last Leave 5:45pm (45mins apart) but with an Active Time of 30mins.

What was less explainable was when the “Active Time” was greater than the window between the “First Join” and “Last Leave” times. How could this possibly be correct? Well it can’t… so there must be a problem somewhere. Upon further investigation it was discovered that once again the correct information was being recorded but in some instances was not being correctly displayed.

In some instances where a student had joined and left a single session multiple times the “First Join” and “Last Leave” values will only be for one of these connections, where as the “Active Time” value would be the cumulative value and therefore correct. So using our example above:

  • A student joins at 5pm, leaves at 5:15pm, rejoins at 5:30pm and leaves for a second and last time at 5:45pm.
    This would mean the values displayed might be:
    First Join – 5pm, Last Leave 5:15pm (15mins apart), with an Active Time of 30mins.
    Alternatively it might display as:
    First Join – 5:30pm, Last Leave 5:45pm (15mins apart) with an Active Time of 30mins.

In practice this has not been a problem for us as staff have always only ever been interested in either a list of name of those that attended or the “Active time” that a student was in a session.

In short if you wish to track attendance at your Collaborate sessions you will need to send an email to collaborate@aston.ac.uk including the name and date of the session that you would like the report for.

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