Huddersfield University Rolls Out Touch-In System

After three years of careful and incremental development, Huddersfield is one of the first Universities in the UK to measure student attendance electronically across all parts of its campuses.

Initially a 12-week pilot in one school, their Onyx student attendance monitoring project has culminated in the installation of more than 400 wifi enabled and networked wall-mounted student card readers across the whole University, including all seven schools. These fixed units are backed up with 20 further mobile scanners to cope with changing venues and events. The MiFare card reader system enables the University to monitor attendance and manage student retention from a single centralised database.

Huddersfield and Telepen had worked together on an access control system for the University library, so they were the logical choice to pilot a student point of contact system.

“This is a long way away from the past when our schools used to track attendance manually through registers,” said Huddersfield’s Deputy Corporate Information Systems Manager, Andrew Sharp. “Implementing this system has resulted in a noticeable increase in student retention.”

The system has been received positively by students, too, said Andrew. “We use the data proactively and have tiers of response from a text, to a call or a letter when we see attendance falling below acceptable levels. Our response is to engage with the student and put the right support in place if they are running into difficulties rather than trying to police them. The students appreciate that ultimately they benefit from this point of contact system.”

The students have played a role in evolving the system with their input influencing the next phase of development. The University is implementing a change in the way it manages timetabling and is working on integrating point of contact data into individual timetables for each student, at their request.

“This will enable us to build up a profile of each student’s attendance and use of facilities such as libraries and computer suites. Over time we can use this for benchmarking to build up a picture of students’ behaviour during their entire course,” said Andrew.

Apart from the ability to provide a better service to students, there are further benefits for the University. There are resource savings associated with the removal of manual data inputting from the old register systems.

Capturing data also assists with complying with UK Border Agency regulations. By producing weekly attendance reports, the system allows the University to quickly identify any irregularities and provide the Agency with the information it requires. Failure to do this could result in a loss of the licence to host overseas students which would have a significant impact on revenues.

Andrew, who has been involved with the implementation of the project from the start, said the entire project has been “quick and smooth. Telepen is good to work with and very responsive when it comes to sorting out any issues”.

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