I like to take attendance. My rationale is that students should be held to a standard of professional responsibility in a course on that subject. I permit students to email my assistant in advance of class if they have a good faith and justifiable reason for missing class — and I trust that the students are honest in their excuses.
The mechanics of taking attendance, though, can be challenging. Before I switched to TWEN with the casebook, I used clickers for questions and the clicker program provided an attendance function. I do not believe TWEN offers that option (but I would be happy to be corrected on this) and taking attendance in a large class is otherwise quite challenging. I was very glad to receive this guidance from the Fordham Center for Teaching Excellence:
If you’d like to record attendance using an electronic device, like your smartphone, you can do so easily using Google Docs, a free part of the Google account that all faculty have with their Gmail.
The first step is to create a form, with each student’s name as a question and multiple choice buttons labelled “present” or “absent,” and perhaps also “tardy” or “excused.” You can always return to edit the form later, if students add or drop the course.
The form saves each submission to a spreadsheet that timestamps the entry. You can email the form to yourself or embed it in a webpage. If you have a smartphone or a tablet, like an iPad, you can bookmark the form and record attendance in the cloud using your mobile device.
We created a five-minute screencast on YouTube that walks through setting up the form: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9rZeVgYEA2Y We recommend viewing the clip in the large player or in full-screen mode.