Scan & sit: far from perfect

My first day back in a lecture hall after a year and a half away from Swansea and my lecturer promptly announces, “Big Brother has arrived”.

Staring from the side of each of the doors of the lecture theatre were these mystery black boxes with glaring white eyes. My next lecturer jokingly (I hope) suggests; “they’ll be micro chipping you all next!”

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Scan & sit terminal (Photo:Hilary Webb)
Scan & sit terminal (Photo:Hilary Webb)

It was true; we must now scan our student ID cards before the first ten minutes of our lecture in order to be marked
as present.
The arrival of Scan and Sit was inevitable as the UK’s obsession with immigration increases, meaning that universities are required to provide evidence of those in the country on student VISAs actually attending lectures. Yet as a result, it is apparently necessary that we all now be tracked.

There is no denying, especially as the University and the Union have been shoving it down our throats since the arrival of Scan and Sit, attendance correlates with performance. The more lectures, seminars, tutorials and labs students attend, the higher their chances of success. But was the attendance monitoring system ever really broken to begin with? When my housemate ended up in hospital in my first year, a quick email to my lecturer meant she knew why I wouldn’t be attending and that I wouldn’t be penalised for being an unmotivated student. When I ran the London Marathon and didn’t fancy getting the train back to Swansea immediately after, my lecturers knew and understood why I would be absent and we were able to communicate about how I would catch up.

Now however, when I show up to every lecture early but on one occasion innocently forget my purse and therefore my student ID (because I am not a perfect human) it doesn’t matter if my lecturer says “afternoon, Hilary,” or whether or not I participate in the class, as far as the system is aware I was a no show. The system also is only supposed to flag up absences if we fail to attend two consecutive weeks of classes, but does that mean missing a week or ten days of lectures shouldn’t concern our lecturers?

Here is where the problem with the Scan and Sit system lies. That lecturers no longer have the power to view, influence, alter or correct their students attendance. Lecturers have lost part of their direct involvement with their students and I fear that in the long term, the disappearance of interactions between lecturers and students about attendance might be detrimental to all. It is early days though, and hopefully there will be opportunities for this imperfect system to evolve, returning some power to the people. The university have already announced several changes to the system including the introduction of an Mobile App next semester that will allow students to view their attendance. In the meantime though I like to think that the Scan and Sit system would at least make George Orwell laugh, or say “I told you so!”

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