The attendance dance

(I apologize for the title of this post.)

In my eight or so months of teaching, I’ve been shocked to discover that I’m apparently fairly retrograde in at least a few areas. I think I’m more willing to lecture for longer periods of time than are some of my colleagues; I’m not a big fan of unproctored, at-home assessments; and I take attendance at every class.

As the end of the semester approaches, my attention turns to that last item. I use ANGEL’s PIN system to handle attendance for me (ANGEL provides a PIN for me; I put it on the board; students enter the PIN back into ANGEL; and ANGEL records the results), which more or less works well. 1 The problem is that the default attendance report ANGEL provides me is essentially useless:

The default ANGEL attendance report

The default ANGEL attendance report

As you can see, there is no tabulation of any kind, which defeats the entire purpose of the attendance regime (I would like to know how many times a student did not attend class; radical, I know).

It took me a while to figure out how to solve this problem, so I thought I’d share it here. First, from the Attendance Manager, click the Export link. I prefer CSV format:

Export to CSV format

Export to CSV format

Next, open up the file in Microsoft Excel:

The raw export

The raw export

Every row in the spreadsheet is a student name and the student’s attendance entry on that day (assuming the student entered anything; if he didn’t, then there is no entry!). I’m not sure why the export is prepared in such a non-useful way (at least from the perspective of my use case, which I’m assuming is the most common use case). However, we can very quickly and easily create a PivotTable which displays the data in a far more pragmatic fashion. I’ll assume that you’re cool and are using the Mac. Click the Data tab in the ribbon, then click the arrow next to PivotTable, and select “Create Automatic PivotTable”:

The final PivotTable

The final PivotTable

Instantly, you’ll be presented with a great report that provides tallies of student attendance by day (in the screenshot below, I’ve hidden some rows and columns so that you can get a sense of the entire PivotTable):

There’s a column for every student, and the last row in the column shows the number of times a student was present in class. If I need to know the number of times a student was absent, I can get a count of the number of days where attendance was collected by counting the date rows in the first column, and finding the difference.

Notes:

  1. There are some problems, of course. First, ANGEL doesn’t allow me to IP filter student PIN entries, like it does allow me to IP filter student assessment submissions. Second, students will forget to enter the PIN, which results in an e-mail to me and then me having to log into ANGEL and click a dozen or so links to manual edit the student’s attendance. Lastly, when there are days when I specifically don’t take attendance (like quiz days, where the quiz submission itself is proof of attendance), I still need to remember to go into the ANGEL Attendance Manager and set a default of “Excused” for every student, or else at the end of the semester students will think that ANGEL screwed up by not recording their attendance.