Q: Your syllabus attendance policy is quite strict. Do you find that’s important for an intro level course like this?
Corser: This course has a high fail rate. 20-25% of the class fails cs116. This happens because students have insufficient college study discipline or because they do not have enough preparation for cs116 level programming. I announce strict attendance rules because in the past I have found that undisciplined or unprepared people would get overwhelmed, start skipping class, then at the end of the course try to do all of the assignments when they never really learned the material. In other words, I enforce attendance in an attempt to reduce the fail rate. If I can get people to class I can get people to pass.
That having been said, sometimes I will get students who are either undisciplined or unprepared but not both. Either way attendance helps. The disciplined unprepared people need attendance to learn the material better. The undisciplined prepared people need attendance to build habits to prepare them for the real world.
Every once in a while I get students who are both disciplined and prepared. In those cases there is not attendance problem. They come to class and do other work while in class, which I don’t mind. I don’t call on them unless I really need their help. They are always helpful to have around because they can help other students, which I believe has educational value for these students. I encourage them to push themselves with challenges like Kattis problems, to get the most out of the course, but I give them the choice of how to use their time.
Of course, attendance penalties are only assessed for unexcused absences. If students need to miss a class all they have to do is ask.