December 6, 2023
Class attendance in US universities is thought to be at a record low, as a technologically fortified brew of stress, mercenary attitudes and – in some cases – low-quality teaching makes pandemic-era no-shows permanent.
Academics said that Covid lockdowns had normalized the idea of students skipping classes or watching them remotely.
“Attendance is a real problem now, in a way it wasn’t before the pandemic,” said Daniel Chambliss, an emeritus professor of sociology at Hamilton College. “And that’s attendance in both a physical sense and a mental stance.”
“A lot of folks are telling me that they’re having issues,” said Benjamin Selznick, an associate professor of strategic leadership studies at James Madison University.
“I have heard, anecdotally,” said Jonathan Malesic, an adjunct instructor of writing at Southern Methodist University, “about lecture courses with 25 per cent attendance.”
Two other trends in higher education might be compounding attitudes towards in-person classroom attendance, Professor Chambliss said. One, he said, was the growing reliance on adjunct instructors. That appeared to be giving students a lower-quality classroom experience, which might make them question the value of spending time in class.
The other, Professor Chambliss said, was the growing emphasis in US higher education on job-oriented teaching – “this whole idea of return on investment, and that majors have to pay off”.