VCU plans to track student attendance via Wi-Fi network

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RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Virginia Commonwealth University is expected to launch a pilot program called “Ram Attend” that will allow school officials track whether students are in class or skipping out.

Students are not forced to take part in the initiative, according to VCU. They can opt out if they want, but must do it within the next week.

VCU declined 8News’ request for an interview to find out more details but according to the university’s website, the program records students’ attendance once they enter class and log into the school’s Wi-Fi network. VCU site says the method will measure student success.

Many VCU students who spoke with 8News said they hadn’t even heard about it until Thursday and some said they aren’t too happy about the idea.

“It’s a discomfort for a lot of people,” one student said. “It seems like they need to publicize this a little bit more so the students at least know. I do believe that class attendance is a key factor to students success in school. It’s a matter of this method of figuring out if you’re in class, I wouldn’t figure this to be the best one.”

Another student told 8News she thought the concept was “a little creepy.”

“I don’t think you can really force anyone to go to class and study if they don’t want to,” she continued. “They can go to class and still not be present.”

VCU made changes to many key parts of the method after 8News called the university on Thursday. Most notably, the website used to say students in all Focused Inquiry classes, which are courses many freshmen and sophomores are in, will be tracked. The site now states that just a couple of courses will participate.

“I do plan on opting out of it,” one VCU student told 8News. “I think it’s weird that I’m hearing it from my peers rather then my school. It’s becoming kind of like a resistance against it.”

While VCU declined an on-camera interview, a spokesperson for the university provided a statement on the pilot program with 8News:

“Thanks for reaching out about the VCU RAM Attend pilot. 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,” VCU’s Associated Vice President for Public Affairs Mike Porter said in an email Thursday. “We have not yet begun any data analysis so it is too early to speak about the progress of the pilot but here is a link to more information. We will update the FAQ’s as additional questions come in.”  

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