VCU to begin pilot program tracking students’ attendance through Wi-Fi

RICHMOND, Va. -- Virginia Commonwealth University is set to begin a pilot program aimed at tracking whether a student shows up for class.

The university will soon test "RAM Attend" in three classes during the Fall 2019 semester.

"This program compares Wi-Fi connection logs with student class schedule information to automatically verify class attendance," according to the school's website.

The student's attendance will be automatically recorded when they connect to the college's WIFI through their phone, tablet or laptop while in their classroom.

The university will send the data to Texas-based Digital Analytics, which compares the information to the student's class schedule.

VCU said the student's name would not be transmitted, but only their personal school identification number.

"As with all student information, any university official may access only those student records that they need in order to conduct their official duties. For example, faculty may access attendance records of students in their classes; advisors may access attendance records of their advisees; and other student support professionals may access the records needed to conduct their student support responsibilities. Further, any individual student may access their own records," according to the university.

Several current VCU students questioned why the school would want the information.

"If we don’t go to class our grades suffer. That’s enough of an incentive to be there in my opinion," Bennett Thomas explained. "I don’t feel the need for VCU to keep track of my attendance for me."

Sophomore Haley Hopkins said she could see the benefit of the program.

"I think class attendance would increase for those who don’t go because there’s probably a fear something would happen to them," she stated.

A university spokesman said in a statement, "We are in the initial stages of information sharing with students in Focused Inquiry courses about the goals of our student success initiative which is focused on the importance of classroom attendance in successful learning.  We have not yet begun any data analysis so it is too early to speak about the progress of the pilot."

The first three classes participating in the pilot of RAM Attend are UNIV 111, UNIV 112, and UNIV 200. Those students have until November 21 to opt-out.

When asked for an interview, VCU referred us to the RAM Attend "Frequently Asked Questions" portion of their website for more information.

Notice: you are using an outdated browser. Microsoft does not recommend using IE as your default browser. Some features on this website, like video and images, might not work properly. For the best experience, please upgrade your browser.