WRITE OFF: In defense of roll call at the college level

With the amount of supplementary materials professors release online as well as the textbook, self-teaching may seem like a better option than showing up to an early 8 a.m. class. The information introduced in the lecture hall is often consolidated during discussion sections and many students feel they can reap the same benefits without being present during each lecture. Although the seemingly juvenile expectation of daily college attendance being a part of one’s overall grade in a course can be daunting, it’s in the best interest of the students. Mandatory attendance serves as a way of cushioning grades while also being an incentive for students to optimize their education.

Students who choose to pay the tuition to attend a public university such as UCR choose not to opt for an online university that is based more so on self-teaching. Those who opt not to be present during lecture believe that they can still obtain the same education through self-studying the provided textbooks. Professors often utilize textbooks as the backbone of their lectures or as a referential supplement. However, much of what a professor mentions during lecture is not simply a regurgitated “Sparknote” of the supplementary material. Professors have a background in the areas they are teaching and have gained innumerable amounts of information that are infused as valuable components of their lecture.

The interactive nature of a classroom fosters conversations and leads to understanding that often cannot be well-achieved with the constraints of a textbook filled with a concrete list of words that are not always well-explained.  Mandatory attendance helps provide a reason for students to be present and have the opportunity to have these interactions with the professors as well as other students.  

Students are a vital component in each class, serving each other as well as the professor. The classroom dynamic is dependent on both what the students and the professor bring to the table. Attendance represents engagement which fuels the professor’s dedication to the students. This motivates the students to be more present in the classroom, and creates a positive cycle. Conversely, a lackadaisical half-filled lecture hall can detract from this cyclical pattern.

It is inevitable, that at some point in one’s education, students encounter a bad testing day. For that unfortunate situation, it is slightly relieving that something as simple as being present in the classroom can mitigate a poor score. Seeing a syllabus with one to two exams determining the whole grade in a class can be unnerving and add to testing anxiety. For some, test-taking is not their strongest suit. Depending on how many questions are on an exam, one small mistake can be detrimental to one’s grade and may not serve as an accurate representation of the students’ understanding of the material. Attendance grades can serve as a crutch when the test simply does not go as planned.

Next time you see attendance listed next to a percentage on your syllabus, be relieved rather than intimidated. Showing up to class can be easy points that will encourage you to make the most out of your hefty tuition. It is neither cost-efficient nor beneficial if students are not obtaining the in-person benefits of being in the lecture hall. The seemingly mundane task of going to class each day and the juvenile grading of it is an incentive for students to approach education in the most beneficial of ways.

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