Case Study: Taking Attendance with WebAssign

Professor Dale Dawes

Dale Dawes

Taking attendance through WebAssign, and making the results available to your classroom, empowers students to track their own class progress and improves overall class attendance. Read more to learn how Professor Dale Dawes reduced the time spent manually recording attendance and calculating final scores at the end of the semester and increased student engagement.


Professor Dale Dawes is a doctoral candidate in mathematics education at Teachers College, Columbia University and a full-time lecturer at CUNY- BMCC. His research focuses on the effective integration of educational technology in the classroom. His technique includes using the real-time analytics of WebAssign® to transform a classroom into an innovative teaching environment where an instructor’s pedagogical approach can be tailored to the needs of each class and each student.

He was looking for ways to empower students to track their own progress in class as well as improve overall class attendance. Ideally he wanted to do this in a way that reduced time spent on the administrative task of recording attendance manually and calculating a final score at the end of the semester.


WebAssign’s diverse functionalities enable instructors to use the system for a plethora of tasks that are limited only by the imagination. Taking attendance is a perfect example of one such task because it is a simple idea that could have a significant impact on students.

Professor Dawes began using WebAssign’s GradeBook to take student attendance in the Spring 2012 semester. He chose to make their attendance grade worth a small percentage (5%) of their final grade, but high enough to matter to most students. He allowed a 5-minute grace period at the beginning of class to receive full credit and then used a simple process (detailed below) to collect attendance records quickly. Professor Dawes also made the attendance score (along with scores from homework and quizzes) available for the students to check anytime.

He expected this new setup to lessen his workload and make students more accountable.


Since Professor Dawes started using WebAssign to track his students’ attendance records, he has seen an increase in his students accepting personal responsibility for their attendance. He has provided a summary of the results from his experience.

“Taking attendance through WebAssign leads to more students rushing to class—literally out of breath—to make sure they are on time. Students care about their grades and when you allow them to track their grades (including their attendance grade) it serves as a constant progress report. When asked about the useful features of WebAssign, one student stated, ‘being able to check your grades at any time is extremely helpful and can be a good wakeup call.’

“After setting up my WebAssign to take attendance, I no longer have to ask my students about their absences or being late and the majority of my students approach me to explain the situation and inquire about the work they missed. They provide a doctor’s note and proactively email me if they are delayed or detained by an emergency. Their goal is to ensure they can get as much credit (including partial credit for excused absences) as possible for their attendance.”

The result is a more responsible student, acting accountable for his or her actions and recognizing the impact on his or her overall performance. From an instructor’s perspective, WebAssign’s reporting features can enable instructors to determine the relationship between students’ attendance and their performance in each assignment category (e.g., homework or exam). The raw data available to instructors via WebAssign can also be used for future research to inform and improve pedagogy.

Download the complete Attendance Case Study for step-by-step directions on how to implement this tip in your own classroom.

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