The University of Newcastle is trailing a program that will use location services on students’ mobile phones to make sure they attend their classes.
A third-party app developed by library cloud services provider, ExLibris, will be hooked into participating students’ timetables and check their phone’s geolocation to ensure students are, in fact, in class.
Students will also have the option of being marked ‘present’ the old-fashioned way.
In a statement, the university said students’ locations will only be recorded when they check into class and that it won’t track students outside of class.
Data will also apparently be stored and managed “in accordance with NSW Privacy Laws”.
The trial program coincides with a new university policy that requires all first-year students attend 80 per cent of a course’s tutorials, lab sessions, and/or seminars in order to pass.
“This decision is evidence-based and about getting the best outcomes for our students,” the statement says.
“There are well-documented links between high attendance and student success.”
Data collected by the app will also “help teaching staff to more quickly identify students who may be struggling to make class or need additional assistance”.
University of Newcastle student, Kastor Morgan, told Information Age she had doubts about the technology’s effectiveness.
“The app is likely going to fail because it relies on GPS tracking to see that we're in class, but from what I've found is that the GPS on most phones on campus is extremely faulty so many people will probably not be able to check into classes even when they're in the room,” Morgan said.
“Ultimately, I don't think the system is going to be a good idea.”
Morgan also said she was concerned the mandatory course attendance requirements could place “undue stress” on students.
Luka Harrison from the University of Newcastle’s Student Union told the ABC that the program was unnecessarily invasive.
“We believe it’s a gross invasion of privacy on the part of the uni against the students and it points to a growing trend of the corporatisation of unis all around Australia,” Harrison said.
Another student mentioned on a University of Newcastle Facebook group that she wasn’t at all bothered by the idea.
“My boss already uses an app pretty similar for us for work so I guess I’m used to being monitored,” the student said.