Digitizing university processes with Studo's Digital Attendance List

How can universities digitize administrative processes? Get an overview of the topic of e-Administration and insights into a unique development in Austria: the Digital Attendance List.


from Isabella Zick

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Digital transformation in the higher education sector affects the three major areas of teaching, research and administration equally. In this blog post, we want to focus in particular on processes in administration and how universities can save time and money using digital solutions.

e-Administration: Digital solutions in university administration

"Simplifying administrative procedures and making them more efficient through digitalized processes" is one of the goals of e-Administration, according to the Austrian Federal Ministry of Education. Digital processes should enable universities to complete tasks more efficiently and save employees time and effort. When bureaucratic and administrative tasks take up less space, more freedom is created for research and teaching.

Campus management systems are an already well-established digital structure in the higher education sector. These systems handle the entire student life cycle, as well as administrative and research processes. Students for example use the campus from their first enrollment to their graduation as alumni. For lecturers, all courses, examinations and the associated processes are mapped via the campus management system. And employees in research or administration can find the relevant databases, university resources and much more via this digital campus.

Digital Alternatives in Administration: Digital Attendance List

In order to introduce digital processes in the sense of e-administration, it is important to rethink the analog processes that university staff and students have to deal with on a daily basis. Perhaps you are familiar with this situation:

A lecture begins, the auditorium is full. Before the lecturer starts with the subject matter, the attendance list is first handed out to the students. Throughout the lecture, the list is passed from the front to the back and through all the students' hands. At the end of the lecture, the attendance list comes back to the lecturer with many autographs on it - some signatures are missing, but these students have apparently not been in the lecture hall during this lecture. At the end of the semester, the lists are then compiled and the attendances are typed by hand into the computer system. The resulting attendance rate of the students contributes to a positive or negative conclusion of the course.

This is a standard process at many European universities. But there are some challenges of this analog process that a digital alternative could easily solve. For example, when it comes to data protection: Universities are very concerned about protecting university data and the data of their students. As mentioned in our example, an attendance list often travels through a great many hands - including signatures, names and registration numbers. Secure handling of this personal data would be a great opportunity for digital solutions. Transparency also challenges this analog process: Students who don't write down how often they attended for themselves will only find out at the end of the semester whether their attendance rate was sufficient or not. With a digital solution, both students and teachers could access this information in real time. Saving time and resources is one of the major benefits of e-administration. This is also the case with the attendance list example: Collecting signatures during the lecture, entering the attendance and evaluating it afterwards - all this costs lecturers a lot of their valuable time.

The first Digital Attendance List in Austria

"We must be able to digitize this process somehow" - with this request, the CAMPUS 02 University of Applied Sciences approached Studo in early 2021. Before that, digitalization projects such as the Digital Student Card or the staff app had already been implemented together. But the Digital Attendance List was something completely new for both sides. The development goal: A Digital Attendance List that students can use to check in to a lecture via their smartphone. With which teachers can see at a glance who is attending and who has signed out for that day. With which attendance rates are calculated in real time and can be viewed by administration, teachers and students.

exemplary presentation of the webinterface of the Digital Attendance ListExemplary presentation of the Digital Attendance List for lecturers

For half a year, we worked very hard on this project. We created interfaces between the campus management system and the Studo infrastructure, worked through a wide range of use cases, and developed a web interface and web app. For the winter semester 2021/2022, our alternative to pen and paper is ready to be rolled out as the first digital attendance list in Austria at the FH CAMPUS 02.

Advantages of a Digital Attendance List

Studo's Digital Attendance List is a 100% GDPR-compliant solution. It provides both university staff and individual students with an overview of attendance times in real time. Teachers can easily record the attendance of their students using a live QR code - whether in face-to-face courses or online classes. Using the digital attendance list, students can also submit requests for time off and for subsequent entry. These requests can be processed directly in the web tool by university administrators and any exempted hours are immediately reflected in the student's attendance hours.

Try out the demo version of the Digital Attendance List here. For more information about the Digital Attendance List, please contact our cooperation manager Lorenz Schmoly.

Our Cooperation with Microsoft Teams

Ever since the Corona pandemic, a large number of universities have been using Microsoft Teams. The software for video conferencing and digital collaboration made it easy to switch from face-to-face to digital teaching. Nowadays, it's hard to imagine teaching without solutions like Microsoft Teams. The hybrid mode has shown its advantages and will continue to be used at universities in the future.

While developing the Digital Attendance List, we discovered some synergies with Microsoft and reached out to their development team. We are very happy to now be an official member of the Microsoft Partner Network and thus have an open communication channel with the development team. This has been very helpful in the development of our plug-ins. In the future, if there is a sudden issue that affects or limits the functionality of the Digital Attendance List in Microsoft Teams, we can easily contact Microsoft and fix issues quickly.

Plug-in for Microsoft Teams

In collaboration with the Microsoft development team, we have developed a plug-in and an add-on for the Digital Attendance List that simplifies attendance control via Microsoft Teams.

The "Teams Sync Plug-in" automatically and regularly synchronizes all relevant courses, groups and events from the campus management system into Microsoft Teams. Then, based on the courses, teams and team channels are created for students and lecturers. The plug-in even detects and synchronizes changes after the start of the semester, for example, when a student is enrolled or deregistered from a course. This saves recurring administrative effort and provides a reliable solution for synchronizing the campus management system and Microsoft Teams.

The FH CAMPUS 02 uses both the digital attendance list and the "Teams Sync Plug-in" and has contributed significantly to its development through feedback from everyday university life.

Starting with the winter semester 2022/23, the "Teams Sync Plug-in" can be put into operation at universities that use CAMPUSonline without any setup effort. This is possible thanks to the pre-configured interface that we have developed together with CAMPUSonline and that can be activated without any effort. Universities with a different campus management system can also use the plug-in. For this, only a small API has to be provided, through which the plug-in gets access to the courses and groups.

Add-on for the Digital Attendance List

In addition to the plug-in, we have developed an add-on for the Digital Attendance List that automates the check-in process for online courses. With the "Automatic Microsoft Teams Check-in" add-on, participants in online courses no longer have to scan the QR code on the Digital Attendance List. Instead, their attendance is automatically recorded when joining a call. As a result, neither lecturers nor students have to worry about recording attendance. They can concentrate on teaching and thus save time. 

Privacy and security

Like always, optimal implementation in terms of data protection and security has the highest priority for us. The "Teams Sync Plug-in" module is hosted by Studo on behalf of the university in a GDPR-compliant environment, so that as little effort as possible is required for university employees. As with the Studo App and our other development projects, the Teams Sync Plug-in is a 100% GDPR-compliant solution hosted in the EU by EU companies. You can find more information about it here.

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