Skipping class? Don’t let your Wi-Fi know

Skipping class? Don’t let your Wi-Fi know

Virginia Commonwealth University begins use of students’ Wi-Fi to track attendance.

Written by
Edited by Beryl Lipton

As campuses expand their surveillance abilities, that common college nightmare—the one where you’re in class for the first time and it’s the day of the final—might not make it into the next decade.

This month, Virginia Commonwealth University began to track attendance through the Wi-Fi on students’ phones and other devices.

VCU entered a $96,000, one-year agreement with vendor Degree Analytics in May. Degree Analytics enables schools to track its students movements, ostensibly to increase retention, and VCU is using the software as part of a pilot program called RAM Attend. Three sections of freshmen and sophomore students will be included in the pilot.

“Academic advisors and faculty already depend on progress reports and mid-term grades to help students recognize and overcome challenges in their courses,” the university says on a page about the pilot where students could also opt out. “They can do the same by identifying patterns in class attendance.”

The pilot’s FAQ says the program will use Wi-Fi signal from any device students have used to register with VCU’s wireless network.

A revised explanation of the pilot also adds: “It does not use connection data from access points outside the designated classrooms or while participating classes are not in session…We have taken multiple steps to ensure the security of the attendance data. Students may choose to opt-out of this pilot.”

Students had until November 21 to opt out.

You can read the full contract here:

Is your college or university using Degree Analytics? Let us know, and we’ll submit a request to add to our project page.

Image via Wikimedia Commons