For today’s career and trade schools, recruiting and educating the next generation of professionals is job number one. More Americans than ever are seeking a vocational education as a path to a stable and well-paying career. 

Career and trade schools differ from traditional colleges and universities because programs often require accurate and detailed records of attendance and participation. If it’s not correctly recorded, then students might not qualify for their certifications and financial aid. Many schools still rely on outdated, manual time keeping, which creates more work for administrators and faculty and puts students’ success at risk. 

Fortunately, there are better ways to manage credit-hour and clock-based attendance. Modern student information systems offer integrated solutions to record and track your students’ progress. By upgrading to a new platform, schools can improve their record keeping and streamline operations. That’s a win-win for your entire community. 

In this post, we will cover:

The Importance of Accurate Attendance

Attendance is the basis for many career, technical and trade programs. To earn a degree or certificate, many of these programs require a certain number of hours of participation. That can be in-person classroom hours, externship and field placement, or online coursework. No matter the format or location, schools need to track a student’s hours in order to make sure they’re satisfying requirements and working toward completion.

Schools rely on two main types of attendance:

  • Clock-based attendance: Intended to monitor the number of hours a student is in class (either in-person or remote). The hours are required to complete their degree or program of study.
  • Credit-based attendance: Rather than tracking hours, a credit-based program tracks when students were present or absent for classwork, field work or exams. Some schools require a certain amount of credit hours to complete a course or degree.

Attendance software can be configured to report on whatever information a school needs. A well-equipped student information system like Campus Cafe Software can integrate with either type of attendance format – or both – and that provides schools with greater flexibility when it comes to using that data.

Detailed and accurate attendance reports are also necessary for students to qualify for federal financial aid and to show they are making significant academic progress toward their degree. Schools are required to submit attendance reports to the federal government on a regular basis. If there are errors or incomplete data, a student’s funding could be delayed or, even worse, they may not get their funds.

Attendance is also important for keeping your students on track. If your faculty or administration can see a student has been missing class or their field work, they can reach out to that student and assess the problem. If your school can identify at-risk students before they fall too far behind or drop out, it’s possible to get them back on track.

It’s also important for students to be able to see their own progress. If your attendance monitoring is visible to students, then they can see when they’ve missed class time or assignments, and if they need to make up their work or reach out to faculty for support.

The Challenges of Clock-Based Attendance

While clock-based attendance is a requirement for most career and trade schools, many still use a manual process. Clock-based and paper-based attendance processes are rife with the potential for errors. And if incorrect information is reported for financial aid or standard academic performance (SAP), then that can have negative impacts for students and reflect poorly on your school.

Here are a few examples of how using a paper ledger or spreadsheet for attendance can increase the likelihood of errors:

  • If an instructor is running late or fielding student questions, they might put off recording attendance until after class, forget who was there, or incorrectly estimate the time students spend in class or on a project.
  • Requiring faculty to be record keepers can be a burden to your already overworked staff.
  • Instructors who have to add attendance-taking duties to their administrative responsibilities can make errors that might have a major impact on student coursework and financial aid.
  • Students being asked to record their own time opens up opportunities for errors or falsifying information.
  • If your school still relies on physical time clocks, the hardware can quickly become outdated making it difficult to keep your student information system updated and in sync with the physical clocks.
  • If the clock doesn’t integrate with your current student information system, then you have to factor in the added cost and time to download information from the clock into a spreadsheet and then upload it into the system.

For these reasons, more schools are moving toward app-based attendance management.

How an Integrated Student Information System Improves Attendance

If your school is still using paper logs or manual spreadsheets to track attendance, put down your pencils (or stop typing). There is an easier, faster and more reliable way to record and monitor attendance. For example, if your school already uses an integrated student information system, then you can use third-party attendance software to log, update and share data.

For example, Campus Cafe Software’s student information system integrates with attendance tracking software provider Course Key to transfer attendance data between the two systems. The information is pushed in real-time, so there’s no need for human interference. From there, administrators, faculty and students can access the data.

By automating and digitizing the attendance process, your school will have the most accurate information with little to no human interaction. Here are some ways that the data can be generated in real-time:

  • Biometrics: To verify attendance, schools can use a system that requires physical confirmation of a student’s identity, such as fingerprints, or facial, eye or voice recognition.
  • Mobile device attendance: Using a mobile app on smartphones or tablets, students can log their attendance, and faculty and administrators can access this information from a mobile device.
  • Location-based services: By using mobile devices to track attendance, schools can also confirm the location of students checking in, whether on campus or at off-campus locations, such as field placement or externships.
  • Geographic fencing: Another way to confirm a student’s location is to set a geographic perimeter, such as campus or a building, and student’s can only check in when they’re within those parameters.

For additional benefits, your school can also integrate a learning management system (LMS) into a well-equipped student information system. This helps staff better monitor students’ progress and identify any chronic absences or poor performance. Because attendance data and LMS information are transmitted via API to the student management system, there’s no need for your staffers to plug in or reconcile data.

How Attendance Data Feeds Into Title IV Reporting

Federal rules require schools to submit reports on their students’ financial aid eligibility and attendance, data on their student population receiving aid, and to track the disbursement of Title IV federal student financial aid funds. To build and submit those reports, your financial aid staff relies on accurate attendance information.

When you use an app-based attendance program, it sends hourly updates to Campus Cafe Software’s student information system, which instantly provides administrators with trustworthy data that is used to populate the government-required reports.

Three Benefits of Integrating Attendance With Your Student Information System

By modernizing your school’s attendance-taking process, everyone in your organization will benefit from more reliable data, faster reporting and less errors. Here’s how:

  1. Instead of faculty and staff monitoring and recording attendance, an automated digital system takes over. This allows instructors to focus on teaching and building relationships with students. By freeing your team from tedious administrative duties, both students and faculty will be better off.
  2. By automating attendance and eliminating manual record keeping, your school can improve the accuracy of its data. This helps faculty and staff monitor students’ progress and also improves communication between departments by creating a single source of truth. Real-time data can also help your school stay informed on students who might need intervention or outreach. For instance, if you notice a student who previously had sterling attendance is now chronically absent, the instructor or a counselor can reach out.
  3. Career and trade schools have reporting requirements for attendance, course completion and tracking academic progress. By improving attendance reporting, it is easier to integrate data into a student information system and generate better reports in half the time.

How to Make Attendance Reporting Easier and More Accurate

Not all student information systems are created alike. Many software systems on the market do a good job of managing some of your school’s operations, but they fall short with other important functions or they don’t integrate well with third-party applications. That’s where Campus Cafe Software stands apart.

Our system is designed specifically to help small and medium-sized schools, including career, technical and trade schools, work faster, smarter and more efficiently. The integrated, cloud-based system was designed to give schools maximum functionality and flexibility, and that includes attendance data. The dashboards provide an easy way to see the hours completed, completion percentage, and a detailed tally of daily attendance or hours. And it works with a number of leading third-party apps and LMSs.

Because everyone has a smartphone in-hand these days, Campus Cafe Software’s mobile app makes it easy for faculty to take attendance and verify that students have properly checked in and out of class. It resembles a time clock without the hardware since students check in via the app, eliminating the need for paper rosters or spreadsheets.

To stay ahead of the curve, our engineers and developers constantly evaluate new integrations and partnerships.

When it comes to attendance tracking, our product works seamlessly with third-party attendance software like Course Key, which takes digital attendance data and makes it available to other functions, such as financial aid, and pulls the information into Title IV reports that are required by the federal government to track student academic progress. Key features for career and trade schools include:

  • Porting data into pre-built reports
  • Highly customizable interface for clock-based, credit-based or both types of programs
  • An API that continuously updates attendance data from third-party apps, giving faculty and staff real-time information
  • Information on classes or coursework a student is missing
  • Ability to monitor missed or extended absences

Campus Cafe Software’s user-friendly dashboards can not only improve students’ experience but also help them stay on track.

Monitor student attendance and program status: Today’s students are digitally savvy and tethered to their mobile devices. Your school’s dashboard can help them track class time, program hours, coursework, and any missed assignments or lectures. This proactively helps them on the path to graduation and improves their academic experience. You can also configure the system to send push notifications as reminders to attend special lectures or seminars, or to check in when students have several absences in a row.

Stay on top of federal financial aid requirements: To maintain eligibility for federal aid, students are required to maintain attendance levels and SAP. Your school’s software can help by monitoring their standing and, if necessary, reach out for help.

Improved communication with faculty and administrators: Today’s students have busy lives and they’re often juggling jobs and family responsibilities with their education. Sometimes those responsibilities may interfere with their schoolwork and attendance. If a student has the ability to update their attendance data, then they can work with faculty and school officials to form a plan to make up for missed work and hours.

Request a leave of absence: If a student needs to take a leave of absence or withdraw, they can communicate that to school administrators before their attendance starts to suffer and they potentially lose their aid.

Keep track of their schedule: Many career and trade schools follow their own year-round calendar, which may be different from the academic calendar students are used to. An attendance module helps students track when their classes are and improve attendance.

Self-service attendance: If you have a mobile responsive module to monitor and record attendance, students have seamless access to their schedule and attendance reporting to clock in and out or record their participation on or off campus. That way, a faculty or staff member can confirm the information before it’s reported to the system.

The Bottom Line on Tracking Student Attendance

When career and trade schools have access to accurate and timely data, it improves efficiency and transparency for their staff, faculty and students. Your school can use a digital attendance reporting system that integrates with your student information system, so all departments have access to accurate information without heavy lifting or making mistakes. If your attendance system and processes are first-rate, then your teams can focus on their most important tasks: recruiting, educating and graduating the next generation of skilled professionals.

Ready to hear more about how Campus Cafe Software can improve your clock-based and credit-based attendance reporting? Contact us today for a demo.


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