Are Facial Recognition Apps the Future of Taking Attendance?


Zhaozeng Yin, an assistant professor of computer science at the Missouri University of Science and Technology, has developed a smartphone app that uses facial recognition techniques to take classroom attendance.

Yin, who says that roll-calling is "tedious" and takes up "maybe 10% of total [class] time," used pattern recognition, his specialty, to develop the app. Most facial recognition systems have to identify individuals out of the entire world's population, but Yin's app just has to check off the same forty faces.

All an instructor has to do is record a few seconds of video of all the students, which will be compared to the original video and automatically record attendance. Use of the app does not require assigned seating.

The app allows more classroom time to be spent on actual instruction and prevents students from cheating the attendance system.

A National Science Foundation Innovation grant of $50,000 is providing Yin with the resources to integrate his app into existing learning management software in the hopes of making it publicly available soon. This would allow concerned parents to keep track of their students' involvement in their classes, writes Joe McCune, and Yin's project fits in with a larger NSF goal to promote social intelligent computing.

Attendance is often a better predictor of grades and therefore graduation rates than admissions tests. Yin says, "There's a strong correlation between student attendance and final grades. The key motivation is to keep students engaged in class, and I want them to succeed."

Other similar apps are more intrusive, according to Ben Schiller. Class120 tracks the GPS in students' phones and sends alerts to parents if they're skipping out on class. A Queens start-up uses facial recognition like Yin, but instead gauges student engagement.

Core Principle, the company that produced Class120, found that 25% of college students miss a year's worth of classes in their four years at school. Klarissa Alcala reports that it can be used by students, parents, or institutions. Institutions may use it to monitor students on academic probation and coaches to make sure their athletes are keeping up with their academics.

Parents can be alerted when students, who must agree to download the app onto their phone, miss classes. Students can also use it to keep track of their own attendance and get reminders if they accidentally sleep through classes. The service costs $17.99 per month or $199.99 per year.

Joe Montgomery, Core Principle's chief marketing officer, says:

…if you're spending tens of thousands of dollars on your sons' and daughters' education and you want to give them the best chance they have to succeed after college, and they agree to participate, then this is an option that you might consider.

Daniel Griffin, a clinical psychologist interviewed about Class120 by Kristen Welker, says that "it doesn't provide the motivation or the grit or drive to actually get out of bed, get dressed, and get to an 8 o'clock class, say, on… a cold January day."

He also notes that a young adult's sense of responsibility is a lesson for middle and high school and that it places the burden of the students' actions on the parents.

03 4, 2015
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