RFID for Student Tracking

Posted by Ken Lynch on Mon, Nov 15, 2010 @ 12:34 PM

Let Us Know What Grade You Think it Deserves

Lecture HallThe benefits of RFID-enabled student tracking solutions are clear.  In many cases, they can help schools do more efficiently and effectively what they’re already doing manually – like providing secure access to a building and recording attendance.  But at what grade level does student tracking become a privacy issue?  Is it OK to use new technologies to track minors in a public high school to deal with problems of truancy or absenteeism?  How about in a public secondary school where attendance is mandatory?  What about college classes attended by paying adults?

In a post earlier this year, we asked the question: School's out, do you know where your child is?  The post explored placing RFID readers on school buses, tagging students’ backpacks and integrating the data into an attendance and transportation monitoring system.  The goals?  To keep track of young school children in an effort to reduce the chance they get on the wrong bus, get off at the wrong stop or are left on the bus after a route is complete.  Seems like a good idea for kindergarten and elementary school level kids and most parents seem to be in favor of the idea.

The reaction is not quite the same at Northern Arizona University where students are protesting plans to monitor their attendance using RFID chips embedded in their student IDs.  The intent is to install RFID readers in class rooms that hold 50 or more students where it can be difficult to take attendance.  School officials are making the argument that the more classes a student attends, the better their academic performance.  The plan is to provide attendance data to instructors, allowing them to incorporate it into their grading system.  Note: NAU student IDs have included RFID tags for the past four years to provide access to residence halls and athletic buildings and administrators see this as an extended benefit of the technology.

In an age where the cost of higher education increases yearly and competition to attract students is stiff, one could see why universities would want to graduate more students with good grades – and leverage new technologies to help them do so.  Parents footing the bill for school may also find their kid’s attendance data interesting.  Opponents, however, question the use of identification and tracking technologies in a place where young adults are expected to learn use their best judgment and make sound decisions on their own.

Share your thoughts with us.  What grade would you give a university that uses RFID to track student attendance?  How about an elementary school installing RFID on busses in an effort to provide safe transportation for their young students?

Tags: RFID, Access Control, Attendance Management, Student Tracking

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