Create a Check-in Tool for Students in Asynchronous Classes

One of the challenges of teaching a truly hybrid, highly flexible course — one that includes students who attend in-person, online during the course time, and online outside the course time — is the challenge of taking attendance. Attendance for the synchronous portions is straightforward, but if you also have asynchronous students, what can you do?

I struggled with this question for a while, and here is the solution I came up with. Better ones may exist, but I can say that this one is actually working, so I thought it would be helpful to share.

I decided that what I needed was for asynchronous students to have a tool that would let them quickly indicate that they are engaging with the course, and would provide me with that information quickly and clearly. I could dig around in the stats for our LMS (Moodle), which surveils every interaction students have with it, but that takes some time and lots of clicking around, and, in any case, I don’t use our LMS for very many things in the course.

The solution I came up with was to use Microsoft Forms to create a simple check-in tool. I chose Forms for a few reasons. 1.) It can automatically capture student’s names, 2.) It integrates easily with Microsoft Teams, which I’m using for class discussions and announcements. (I don’t think Forms is the be-all and end-all — you could accomplish much the same with Google Forms or other tools.)

Here’s what students see:

What students see: A Microsoft Form with one area to click in.
Student view

When students click in the input field, a calendar pops up that defaults to the current date. All a student has to do is hit enter and then submit.

That keeps a record for me that I can either look at as individual responses on Forms or that I can download as an Excel document:

Here’s what it looks like when students click on the link in Teams:

Forms in Teams

A student does not need to leave Teams to check in. They can just click the link at the top of our General channel, click in the input field for the form, hit submit, and then return to the channels in Teams.

I have explained the tool to students in an email and in class, and I also mention it at the start of each of our recorded Zoom sessions to remind any asynch students to check in.

With this tool I can get a sense of whether asynchronous students are engaging with the course in a basic way. For a sense of how well they’re engaging, I have the actual course work. But if I want to know that they’re checking in, this is an easy way for us to do it.

Step-by-step instructions for creating this tool with Forms

  1. Open Forms via the Microsoft waffle on myPlymouth:

2. Create a new form

Click on “New Form” to the left of any existing forms

3. Fill in the title and description. Create a new question of the “Date” type.

Fill in the title and description, then click “Add new”
Choose the “Date” question type
Create the check-in question. Remember to make it required with the slider button below.

That’s it! Microsoft Forms automatically saves it. Your check-in tool is ready for use.

4. Share the link with your students

Now that you have created the form, you need to share it with students. If you go to the “Share” button in the top right, you’ll be able to grab the URL that you can then paste into Moodle, Teams, email, or anywhere else you desire.

The Share button

You can add the link as a URL on Moodle. Here, I’ve automatically shown the description to remind students what the link is for:

Link on Moodle

Linking the Form with Teams

To link the check-in tool in Teams, you treat it as you would any other web address that you put in the top row of a channel.

Here’s what I did after I got the link via the Share button in the form:

1. Go to the Teams channel you want to add the link to. (I’ve used the General channel for my classes.) Click the plus sign to add a tab up top where the links go:

Tabs at top of Teams. Click the plus sign.

2. Choose the option to add a website:

Choose “Website”

3. Give it a name and paste the URL. (You might want to click off “Post to the channel about this tab”, but that’s up to you.)

Name the tab and add the URL.

4. Click “Save”. That’s it. Now you’ve got a new tab that will embed the form right in Teams.

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