Cal Poly Professor Uses GPS Tracker on Students to Take Attendance

Empty college classroom

Professor Tom Bensky at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, has developed an app that tracks classroom attendance using the GPS function on his student’s smartphones.

Professor Tom Bensky is turning heads in academia with a new application that tracks classroom attendance using the GPS feature of his student’s phones. Once students enter the classroom, the app permits them to “check in” to class. The application records the entries and provides Bensky with a daily attendance report.

“For me, this is remarkable,” Bensky said a comment to Inside Higher Ed. “I can walk into my class, welcome the class and say something like, ‘Don’t forget to check in, and then it just happens. I can just walk back to my office and take attendance for 65 check-ins, see who wasn’t here. No pencils, no roster, no check boxes.”

The app, which was created last year, has drawn criticism from those who are concerned with privacy. Bensky says that he does not collect location data from the student’s smartphones. According to Bensky, the app is simply used to confirm that they were physically present in the classroom.

Although Bensky admits that it would be interesting to track where students are when they are absent, he says it would be “be too creepy.”

Computer programmers have already pointed out one major flaw with Bensky’s application: students can spoof their GPS location through other applications. This would make it look like they were present in class even though they were absent.

Bensky seems convinced that GPS technology is the future of taking classroom attendance but some remain unconvinced. For now, Bensky is fighting off one company that has developed a similar software that allows students to check-in via GPS or QR codes.

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