VCU RAM Attend
In fall 2019, RAM Attend was piloted in three University College courses in which instructors already take manual attendance — UNIV 111, UNIV 112 and UNIV 200. Students in these courses were given the opportunity to opt-out of having their fall 2019 wifi connectivity data analyzed as part of the pilot.
Of the 4,047 students enrolled in those courses in fall 2019, 2,414 opted out of having their wifi connectivity data analyzed. The wifi connectivity data for the remaining 1,633 students enrolled in those courses in fall 2019 were included in the pilot.
This semester, spring 2020, we will move into the next phase of the pilot, which will include analyzing the pilot data from fall 2019 and expanding our communications among faculty, staff and students. No additional wifi connectivity data will be analyzed in spring 2020.
Additional information will be posted on this page through the spring semester. Questions should be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ensuring student success is at the heart of VCU’s mission. One of the most important indicators for student success is regular class attendance.
Academic advisors and faculty already depend on progress reports and mid-term grades to help students recognize and overcome challenges in their courses. They can do the same by identifying patterns in class attendance.
In fall 2019, VCU is testing a new program, VCU RAM Attend. This program compares wifi connection logs with student class schedule information to automatically verify class attendance.
For more information on this new method of measuring student success and how it benefits students, see these frequently asked questions below.
Frequently asked questions
VCU is testing a new, fully-automated method of measuring undergraduate student engagement that uses wifi connectivity data (VCU SafeNet) to verify a key driver of student success — class attendance. Specifically, when students connect to VCU SafeNet through their phone, tablet or laptop while in their classroom, their attendance will be automatically recorded.
VCU greatly values the privacy of its students and employees. RAM Attend uses only device connections to VCU SafeNet Wireless network access points that serve the classrooms while participating classes are in session. It does not use connection data from access points outside the designated classrooms or while participating classes are not in session. It does not use cellular, Bluetooth or GPS data. We have taken multiple steps to ensure the security of the attendance data. Students may choose to opt-out of this pilot.
- Students connect to VCU's SafeNet wireless network using their phone, laptop or other device
- The wifi access point used for this log-in is then compared with scheduled class times and locations to determine attendance
- This information is then used to populate the class attendance feature in Navigate, allowing faculty and advisors to spot trends in a student's attendance habits.
- Each VCU classroom contains or is in close range of one or more access points (or routers) for VCU SafeNet Wireless.
- When a student logs in to VCU SafeNet, using their eID and password, their connection is secured through the Access Point closest to their location.
- The logs of the SafeNet connections for classroom access points at scheduled class times are securely transmitted to and analyzed by a data analysis company, Degree Analytics, which cross-references that data with student class schedules. IMPORTANT: No student names are included; only V-numbers.
- The new data is then loaded into Navigate for use by students and academic advisors.
The classes selected to participate in the pilot of RAM Attend are UNIV 111, UNIV 112 and UNIV 200.
Class attendance is a powerful predictor of student success. The instructors in Focused Inquiry classes already take attendance manually. The test data gathered automatically through RAM Attend will be compared to the attendance taken by the instructor. This will help us determine the accuracy of the tool, as well as inform opportunities for expanding the program to large classes in which manual attendance is not feasible.
Faculty can use the attendance information to submit early alerts to mitigate attendance issues. Advisors will use this information to guide students to success in classes. This data can help drive a deeper understanding of what factors impact attendance and how existing resources can be maximized to enable student success.
Student and data privacy is paramount to this and all other VCU technology. In addition to the stringent protections of the Family Educational Records Protection Act (FERPA) and the operational guidelines of the vendor, Degree Analytics, VCU has put the following in place:
- Wireless access point data that is captured and sent to Degree Analytics is limited to the data for students who are logged into VCU SafeNet in their classroom at the scheduled class time. Data for other networks are filtered out.
- VCU eIDs, which are usually made up of an individual’s first initial and last name, are removed and replaced with V-Numbers (proprietary to VCU) before data is sent to Degree Analytics. This way, Degree Analytics cannot identify any individuals by their first initial and last name.
- Information for individuals who choose to opt out is removed before any data is sent to Degree Analytics. Therefore, students who have opted out will not have their classroom wireless connection data sent to Degree Analytics, nor will their attendance be automatically recorded.
- Students may opt-out of participating in the RAM Attend initiative by completing the form at this link by Nov. 21, 2019.
Students may opt-out of participating in the RAM Attend initiative by completing the form at this link by Nov. 21, 2019.
Only individuals with a legitimate academic need will have access to the student-level data.
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.
Aggregate (de-identified) wifi connection data gathered through this pilot will be used by the university to improve other areas of student success, such as increased student retention, graduation and reduced time to degree. Additional details will be available after the fall 2019 pilot.
Additional information can be found at VCU's Student Success website.
Credé, M., Roch, S., & Kieszczynka, U. (2010). Class Attendance in College: A Meta-Analytic Review of the Relationship of Class Attendance With Grades and Student Characteristics. Review of Educational Research, 80(2), 272-295.
Tatum, R., & Childers, K. (2013). The distribution and utilization of class time: How long should class be, and should students even attend? International Review of Economics Education, 13, 1-9.
Kuh, G. D., Kinzie, J., Schuh, J. H., & Whitt, E. J. (2011). Student success in college: Creating conditions that matter. John Wiley & Sons.
Mayhew, M., Rockenbach, Alyssa Bryant, author, Bowman, Nicholas A., author, Wolniak, Gregory C., author, & Pascarella, Ernest T., author. (2016). How college affects students. Volume 3, 21st century evidence that higher education works (First ed.).
Tinto, V. (2012). Completing college: Rethinking institutional action. University of Chicago Press.
Increasing Persistence and Retention
Toy, Terrence J. (1985). Increasing faculty involvement in retention efforts. In increasing student retention (pp. 383-401). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Inc.
No. Opting out of the pilot will not affect your VCU SafeNet connectivity.
VCU Technology Services processes the opt out form through an automated interface.
If you opt out of the pilot, your attendance data for UNIV 111, 112, or 200 for fall 2019 will not be included in the pilot. If you are not registered for UNIV 111, 112, or 200 during the fall 2019 semester, your courses are not participating in the pilot, and there is no need to opt out.
If a student chooses to log into SafeNet, the university records when and at which network access points your device connects to the network. VCU Technology Services regularly uses this data in aggregate form to manage system performance and capacity planning as well as for information security or emergency purposes, as needed. Please see the VCU Computer and Network Resources Use Policy for more information.