Keeping tabs on student absenteeism

May 12, 2000

Brendan Hodgson, director of undergraduate studies at Durham University's computer science department, first heard about the Arcade system through the grapevine. "I went and visited John Latham in Manchester and he offered to come and install it for us here in Durham," Mr Hodgson recalls. "Its main strength is that it has been designed by someone who is doing the job themselves," he adds.

Durham's version differs slightly from the Manchester prototype in that it is used to record all, and not just some, undergraduate lecture attendances, as well as the excuses from those who have gone Awol. Personal details exported from the departmental database have also been merged with records of academic performance, giving Mr Hodgson the necessary overview.

"It means that I can keep tabs on who is missing what and when. Because pastoral care plays a big part in my role as director of undergraduate studies, it is important that I am aware of the reasons why someone is falling behind."

Keeping student details on file has proved to be a useful fall-back during academic appeals. "Only the other day I was asked to provide some information on a student who had passed through the department a couple of years ago. I just accessed the archived files and I was able to report back accurately on that particular student."

He admits that the Unix-based system takes some getting used to, but Mr Hodgson finds Arcade's flexibility much more useful than the in-built packages offered by companies such as Microsoft.

"Arcade does require a bit more understanding but you can do so much more with it."

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