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As long as you're assessing those small group activities, you're doing enough to incentivize attendance in my view. I have them write up their response to the in-class activity and have the TAs grade it for completion (lots of people do this in classes of any size, really). Collectively, they're all worth, say 15% of the final mark.

The submission is online or on paper. Even with a large class, this shouldn't take more than around an hour of TA time per week to track - it's just moving down the gradebook and entering a 1 or a 0. (I actually did the grading on this last semester for around 300 students, and was regularly done in less than an hour.)


Do not put your lecture slides online, and forbid students from taking pictures of them.

non-tt faculty

I think it's good to understand why some students don't come to lectures. Where I work, students are allowed to take conflicting courses, insofar as the tutorials and exam times don't conflict. Furthermore, we've been hit by covid and have been one of the most locked downed cities in the world. Moreover, we have remote students, either because they can't easily come on campus or because of caring duties or other reasons. We also have students who have to work to pay for tuition fees and rend and can't afford the luxury of picking shifts. For all these reasons, the university explicitly requires that we can't mark attendance, and we are required to upload slides to accompany automatic course recording.

I'm still quite pleased that for a current 90-student course I'm teaching, 20-30 show up each week. I'm sometimes perplexed about why some would show up at all. I wouldn't show up at my own course if I had the choice tbh. But my guess is that interacting with the students, letting them feel that their contribution to the lecture is worth their time, and letting them feel that they get something out of human interaction makes it rational to show up some of the time.

Here's what I do. Since the course is somewhat on contentious moral issues, I begin the course with a vote for or against a certain statement, and let students express their opinions. I try to reconstruct their opinions into something intelligible to let the conversation move on and get students to respond to the rational reconstruction. I also pause and let students have a go on why they agree or disagree with some other statements. I think at least some students find this entertaining.

Jonathan Ichikawa

I like using technology (Clickers etc.) for high-frequency low-stakes assessed engagement. When I teach large courses, I check in 5–10 times per hour to ask students questions. Sometimes those are questions with correct answers to see how well they understand; sometimes they're as simple as "how are you feeling? does this make sense?"

I give a participation score for the responding to these questions, which effectively gives them course credit for attending.

Trevor Hedberg

To echo what some others have said, give the students easy, short assignments that are graded on completion. This will boost student engagement in those lectures, and it will also require that students attend class to get those points.

I'd vote against restricting access to slides and other materials used in class. Many students will miss class for legitimate reasons, and you'd be disadvantaging them by cutting them off from that material. If they miss class for a documented disability, then your institution's Disability Services Office (or equivalent) may be require that you distribute this material to those students. Moreover, students will usually benefit from being able to revisit course material later when they review for exams and will not be able to do that easily if their only reference to the handouts, slides, etc., is their own notes.

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