IT creates new program for attendance and contact tracing

QR code (Taylor Will)

Southern is using a new program in order to help with attendance-taking and contact tracing. 

The program, called Attendance Tracking System (ATS), was developed by Herdy Moniyoung, director of Informational Technology. 

According to Director of Online Campus Gus Martin, ATS, which utilizes a QR code to record attendance, is a simple program that helps professors track attendance and seating charts. 

The program was also created, however, with the intent of making contact tracing easier for the University Health Center (UHC). This helps everyone stay safe in a more efficient way, according to administrators.

According to Martin, since switching to ATS, the UHC has been able to reduce the contact tracing process from minutes, and sometimes hours, to seconds because of its visual system. This has also been helpful for the Hamilton County Health Department, who according to Martin, is “very happy because they see the effort” Southern is making to keep its students safe. 

The program took a lot of time and effort to put together since the developers had to not only code the program, but also take imprints from every classroom in order to develop the digital map, according to Martin.

Although Martin considers this program to be relatively easy to use, he acknowledges that not all professors choose to use it in their classes — many due to the amount of changes they have had to adapt to in the past year.  

“ATS is simple and straightforward, but professors are not required to use it,” Martin said. “Some professors need more assistance, which is why they still use eClass.” 

In order to assist faculty with the program’s usage, a video was recently created and distributed to all professors, showing them how to set up the program and use it. 

The program is also available, in some capacity, to teacher assistants who are granted access by their supervising professors. 

According to Martin, one of the advantages of ATS is that it does not require a seating chart, which allows students to sit wherever they want each class period. 

“Technically you don’t need to assign a seat,” Martin said. “It doesn’t matter where you sit because the system knows where you were. And, since it is visual, you can easily view who’s around.”

ATS has also taken into consideration instances in which students might have shared the QR code with students who are not in class. To prevent this, the QR code changes every class period, and can even be deactivated every few minutes if the professor sets a timer for how long a particular QR code can be displayed. 

Martin emphasizes the importance of being honest when it comes to attendance. 

“It’s not just about your grade,” Martin said. “If the student body is not honest, they are putting everyone around them at risk.” 

Another feature of the program intended to protect students is its privacy rights. Currently, only selected staff at the UHC have access to view where students sat during their classes. 

Martin hopes that ATS will remain Southern’s attendance-taking system even after COVID-19.

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