Harvard University raised a few eyebrows when reports surfaced about its use of secret cameras in select classrooms to study student attendance habits. Some questioned the ethics of the research, while others thought the results were rather predictable.
For instance, an average of 60% of students showed up for any of the 10 lecture courses that were filmed, but more showed up on Wednesdays than on Fridays. Lecture attendance also declined over the semester.
A course’s grading policy and students’ motivation for enrolling were the two factors most likely to get them to class. The three courses with the highest attendance had a grading policy that required students to be there and more than 50% of the students who enrolled in those three did so to fill a requirement.
The official reason for the study was to find out how engaged students were in classes using a lecture format, according to a report in The Chronicle of Higher Education. Harvard was also trying to find new ways to make lectures more interactive.