The University of Missouri (Mizzou) will have students download a tracking app to their cellphones so that university officials can keep track of which students attend class, and which ones do not. Mizzou officials claim that they are tracking students for their own good. In a statement sent to Breitbart News, the university claims that the app is “optional,” although students who opt-out will have to confirm attendance with “another method.”
Students that are new to Mizzou’s campus this semester are required to participate in a tracking program that allows university officials to monitor their class attendance, according to a report by the Kansas City Star. A statement from the university says that students can opt-out of the app, but will be required to prove their attendance through alternate methods such as a sign-in sheet.
The report added that the tracking initiative is part of a test pilot for an app called Spotter or SpotterEdu that was developed by a former Mizzou basketball coach, and that the students forced to participate in the tracking are those enrolled in courses taught by faculty who have volunteered to have their classes be part of the program.
These students, the report adds, will not be given a choice to opt out of the tracking program. The university clarified in a statement that students can opt-out of being tracked by their smartphone, but not out of having attendance tracked by other methods.
According to Mizzou’s Vice Provost for Undergraduate Studies, Jim Spain, students are mandated to participate in the tracking. Spain added that university officials will even work with students who don’t have phones so that they can still be tracked.
“A student will have to participate in the recording of attendance,” Spain told Kansas City Star.
Kansas City Star noted that the new tracking initiative is actually an expansion of what has already been going on for the past four years in Mizzou’s athletic department — which has been using the app to track all freshmen athletes, as well as any athlete that is in academic trouble.
The app “works using short-range phone sensors and campus-wide WiFi networks. The university can tell when a student crosses a classroom threshold to enter or leave as the cellphone pings off of a beacon stashed in the room. The app notifies students that they are not in class, in case they are there and forgot to turn on their Bluetooth setting,” reports Kansas City Star.
“It’s the way of leveraging technology to provide us with timely information,” added Spain, who also claimed that the tracking is also beneficial for students to improve their academic performance.
“It has been proven that class attendance and student success are linked,” said Spain.
Mizzou is not the only university to track its students. In November, Breitbart News reported that Virginia Commonwealth University was tracking students’ classroom attendance using WiFi and BlueTooth technology.
Update — The University of Missouri released a statement on the tracking program that disputes the claim that students cannot opt-out of the tracking app. According to the university, students that do not want to be tracked via smartphone will have to prove attendance in other ways.