3 Ways to Boost Attendance Without an Attendance Policy

A lecture hall filled with students
Reading Time: 2 minutes

Dr. Ashley Hall is an adjunct instructor at Abilene Christian University


While you can spend plenty of time crafting an engaging curriculum for your students, they’ll only be engaged if they actually attend your course. Some instructors may opt to institute a course attendance policy. But enforcing it may be difficult in the COVID era of higher education.

Here are three tips to boost students’ attendance regardless of course format — without implementing an attendance policy.

1: Make Class Relevant

Students need to see the value and relevance of what they are learning in their real lives. One way to boost attendance is to clearly show why the course content matters. Make connections between the content and the students’ lives, as well as their future careers.

Even if you teach a core class with a variety of majors, you can still make connections between the content and the students’ everyday lives. Demonstrate how the material connects to them as a consumer, or to current events. If the class is relevant to them, students will be more likely to show up. Their interest will be piqued, and the material they learn becomes more than just exam fodder.

2: Make Class Fun

If your class is interesting and fun, students are more likely to attend face-to-face or log in online. There are plenty of ways to make the class fun and engaging beyond a game or gamification. For example, instead of lecturing, instructors can include more active learning opportunities. Open the floor for discussion, ask probing questions that get students to think or incorporate activities on current events.

For online classes, use live syncs or virtual meetings that include fun elements, such as trivia or group activities, to boost attendance. There are plenty of opportunities to make your class more fun and encourage student attendance.

3: Build Connections

Another way to help encourage attendance without an attendance policy is to build connections with students. When students feel like they’re part of a community, whether in person or online, their attendance can increase as they feel that their presence matters. These connections include relationships with both the professor and other classmates.

In addition to the entire class, you can also build connections with smaller learning groups. This is especially helpful if you teach a large class. Having learning pods or small groups can help students better connect with their classmates. If you build in activities or competitions among these groups, student attendance may also increase, as they do not want to let their teammates down.

Thoughts on Boosting Student Engagement and Attendance

It has been said that you can motivate people with sticks or carrots. It may seem easy to implement a “stick” attendance policy in your course that ties students’ attendance to their grade. But there are plenty of “carrots” that can be used to motivate attendance without enforcing consequences for missed classes.

By motivating attendance through “carrots” like making the class relevant, fun and full of connections, you can boost student attendance in online or face-to-face classes.

To learn more about making your classes relevant to your students, explore the Student Engagement Handbook.