3 Big-Picture Insights You Can Learn from Attendance Data

August 24, 2022

“Here!” We all likely remember what it was like to raise our hands and have our attendance counted for the day at school. That’s because attendance is one of the most commonly tracked metrics in educational programs. 

As learning shifts to online spaces, attendance is proving to be an extremely powerful metric for online learning programs too. When it’s all too easy to close our laptops and walk away, tracking attendance helps learning programs really understand who is on track and who is at risk of dropping off. 

It’s clear that tracking attendance can offer insights on individual students. If a student misses a few classes, you know they might need an extra nudge or some support resources. 

But attendance tracking can help online learning programs answer some big-picture questions too. With this data at hand, programs can make informed, strategic decisions to improve their programming, boosting completion rates, NPS scores, and more. 

Below, we share our top 3 big picture insights you can learn when you track attendance data in your online learning program and which metrics you should track to arrive at these game-changing conclusions. 

What Attendance Metrics Should You Track? 

  • Live Session Attendance - How many students attended (and how many missed)?  
  • Live Session Join Times - At what time did students join the online session? 
  • Live Session Leave Times - At what time did students leave the online session? 
  • Attendance Duration - How long did students stay in the session? Use the join and leave times to calculate this metric.  

Curious what other types of data you should collect to make students are on track? Check out our suggestions here

Top 3 Big Picture Insights:

Specific event data is great to make sure individual students are on track, but the real insights come when you tie attendance data together over time. Once you do, you can tease out major insights that can inform strategic decisions around class content, program structure, instructors, and more. 

While pulling this data might require a bit of math (easily computed in Google Sheets, Airtable, or elsewhere), we promise the insights are worth it. Check them out: 

Attendance Rates

Calculate attendance rates for individual classes, across programs, or for your entire online school. Use these insights to determine:

  • Which specific classes are most attended, and which could use some tweaks to get students to join? 
  • Which programs garner highest attendance? Which programs appear to struggle? 
  • How is your school performing overall? Can you share your overall attendance rates as marketing collateral? Are attendance rates worth sharing with donors or investors? 
  • How does your school wide attendance rate today compare to your rate from a year ago? How does it compare with your overall program completion rates? 

Average Class Duration

Calculate average class duration by week, by instructor, or by program.

  • Are students generally staying in your class until the very end? Or are they skipping out early? 
  • Are there certain instructors that succeed in holding student attention? Are there others where students consistently drop off early? 
  • Which topics seem to be most compelling to your students so that they stay longer? Could you experiment with tweaks to the topics that appear to be lagging? 

Average Drop-Off

Determine when you have the highest drop-off rates, both  throughout the lifecycle of a learning program and across your organization overall. 

  • Is there a specific week that you tend to see the most drop off? Why might that be? Is that when content starts to get especially hard? Is it aligned with an important assignment submission? 
  • If you’re seeing consistent dropoff, could there be a deeper reason learners aren’t persisting? Could this point to changes that could be made in your admissions process to ensure true commitment or ability?  

Want to know why program iteration is essential to creating a top-notch learning program? Check out our deep dive on Agile Educational Design here

By calculating these metrics and asking yourself these questions at periodic intervals, you can make informed decisions on how to continuously iterate and improve on your programming and better support your learners. Because this process isn’t a one-and-done exercise, it’s something that can and should be consistently repeated, since reflection, review, and iteration are essential for learning and growth. 

Curious how to collect these attendance metrics without adding a ton of manual tasks to your workload? Virtually collects attendance automatically, with join times, leave times, absences, and more all at your fingertips. 

Schedule a demo here to learn if Virtually is right for you. 

Read Next: 4 High Impact Student Support Services to Offer in your Online Learning Program

Laura Marks

Laura Marks is Head of Customer Experience at Virtually