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Using Digital Tools for Attendance and Contact Tracing at NC State

Professor faces a full lecture hall.

There are multiple ways to take attendance in a course using digital tools, but now with the need for contact tracing, there are more factors to consider. In this article, we provide several options to help you with this process with a focus on enterprise tools available here at NC State.

Seating Chart

These approaches rely on you maintaining a seating chart or having a method for students to self-report their location. Students need to know how to communicate to you what seat they are in when you take attendance. In some lecture halls, the chairs are already labeled, but in most small classrooms you may need to maintain a seating chart or add numbers to tables and chairs for students to self-report. No matter which digital tool(s) you use, we recommend you remain as consistent as possible with classroom seating arrangements this semester to minimize reporting error and student-to-student mixing. The registrar is in the process of adding seating layouts to their Classroom Search Engine page.

Moodle Attendance

Moodle offers an Attendance activity. By default, Attendance will be an item in your gradebook. However,  you can change the weight of the activity to 0 if you wish for attendance to be ungraded. Once you have added the Attendance activity to Moodle, you can configure the sessions for your class. We recommend that you create repeatable sessions and then delete any sessions that do not occur. 

One of the advantages of Moodle Attendance is allowing students to record their own attendance. When selecting this setting, you have the option of adding a random password that you can give students during class. A QR code is generated by the Attendance activity that you can display, and then students can scan the code with their phones to more quickly navigate to the Attendance page. It is easy for instructors to access and export the attendance data, as needed.

However, there is no space for a student to add where they are sitting as part of attendance. They would need to be in an assigned seat that you could rely on for contact tracing. 

To learn more about the Attendance activity see the Moodle Docs.

Moodle Feedback

Moodle Feedback is an activity in Moodle that functions as a survey tool. It does not contribute to any course grade and it can be used with Activity Completion and Access Restrictions. For the purpose of contact tracing, you can create a Moodle Feedback form to ask students where they are sitting and duplicate this feedback activity for each class period. This is more optimal if you have students move around during class for group work. This data can easily be exported and shared.

To learn more about the Moodle Feedback activity, see the Moodle Docs.

Google Forms

When creating a Google Form, you should require students to login to capture their NC State email address. Include a required question where students note their seat location, and when they submit the form, Google will timestamp their submission date and time. Additionally, you can use an NC State Go Link to generate a short URL to your Google Form. The Go Link will create a QR code you can display for students at the start of class. This data can easily be exported and shared. Check out this article with step-by-step instructions for how to use this method.

Lisa Falk, Assistant Teaching Professor, Department of Marine, Earth, and Atmospheric Sciences has been utilizing a Google Form with an attached seating chart to have students indicate their seat location.

Similarly to Chris Halweg’s example above, you could have a one-question Google form, such as this example

To learn more about Google Forms see Google Support.

To learn more about creating a QR code with NC State Go Links.

Top Hat

Top Hat’s attendance feature allows you to track students’ attendance by prompting them to sign in on their devices using a unique code generated by TopHat. Top Hat auto-assign grades (Attended: 1 point/Absent: 0 points) for attendance. However, you do not have to factor these values into your course grade. You can take attendance with Top Hat anytime during class, but most commonly, this info is collected at the start of class. You can view attendance data in the Top Hat gradebook, and the data can be easily exported to a spreadsheet (like Excel or Google Sheets). 

In the following example, Chris Halweg uses an additional Top Hat question to record where students are sitting in class each day since he does not have required seating.

Chris Halweg, Teaching Associate Professor, Department of Biological Sciences (Genetics Program):

“I physically labeled all of the chairs in Bostian 2272 with numbers for rows and letters for seats. At the start of every class I ask this question, “What seat are you sitting in? Answer with a letter number, e.g. 3J.” It’s an ungraded Word Answer question. When contact tracing wants to know which individuals are within 6 feet of each other, I use my seating chart to look up the seats that are impacted and email back the list of students. I prefer this method over a standard seating chart because I know who attended and what seat they were in each class period.”

To learn more about Top Hat’s attendance feature, see the attendance support article

All of these options will assist in generating the data needed should contact tracing request information. Thank you for your work in helping to protect the Pack!