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Business professors save class time with automated attendance tracker

Loyola press release - November 8, 2011

Loyola University New Orleans finance professor Mehmet Dicle, Ph.D., and economics professor John Levendis, Ph.D., have created a computer program designed to electronically check students into class, eliminating the need for a lengthy roll call and saving valuable class time.

“I have about 75 students in each of my classes and spend between 5-10 minutes at the beginning of each one calling roll, instead of teaching,” Levendis said. “With the program we created, we’ve substantially reduced check in time.”

The technology, called the DL-Electronic Attendance System, uses a quarter sized computer chip to track attendance by having individual students pass the chip in front of a scanner as they enter class. The scanner, hooked up to the professor’s computer, records the students’ attendance, eliminating the need for roll call.

Dicle says he got the tracking idea from, of all things, the creation of the automated electronic pet door.

“I came up with the idea about three years ago when my cat was diagnosed with cancer,” said Dicle. “The cat needed a separate bathroom, so I installed the lock and door so the cat could go out. When she got back close to the door, the computer tag she had would unlock the door automatically. I thought about this idea and started to experiment with it in the classroom.”

The idea is not without controversy.

Northern Arizona University recently implemented a similar attendance tracking system, intended to improve student attendance and retention rates. The NAU system was costly and created tension with the student body, raising the fear of invasion of privacy. The new technology addresses both of these challenges.

“Our system is completely voluntary and the computer chip is very weak. It cannot be tracked from within a few feet from the scanner. Plus, the whole operation is very inexpensive,” said Levendis.

“I have not had one complaint from any student about the use of the attendance tracker. In fact, the students who do comment on it say they like it because it’s quick, convenient, and fair,” said Dicle.

The cost of the scanner, about the size of a deck of cards, is about $20 and is readily available online or in electronics stores. The computer chips are equally inexpensive, costing less than 30 cents each.

Dicle and Levendis have submitted an academic paper on their project and have also made the attendance tracker system available as a free download on their website.

For more information, contact Matt Lambert in the Office of Public Affairs at 504-861-5448 or mlambert@loyno.edu.