It's the age-old question (not really but just go with it), should your system be set up to automatically sign kids into a class/activity; or not? One of the most requested features we've had was for automatic sign-in. Not sure what we mean? Here's an example, if you know that every kid who attends your program between 3 - 3:30pm will be given a snack, then COMET can take any kid with a sign-in record but no sign-out record at 3pm (so anyone who should currently be at the program) will be automatically 'checked-in' to receive a snack. Pretty simple, right? Maybe not.
Here's another example, your program has a policy that every student who attends on Tuesday and Thursday goes to a homework help program from 2-3pm. So, should any kid with a sign-in record before 2pm but no sign-out record be automatically signed into the homework help program? Our suggestion would be no. Here are some differences between the two examples:
- Kids: What do we know about kids? Snacks = good, homework = bad. So, their motivation to skip having a snack is way less than their motivation to skip the homework help program.
- The Real World: A policy of 'everyone who attends Tues/Thurs afternoon will attend homework help from 2-3pm' is perfect on paper, but in practice there are always exceptions (like Mom has to pick them up at 2)
- Impact: Given we know that there will be kids who don't attend, even if they're supposed to, what's the impact of having that data be incorrect? If there's a correlation between kids who don't attend and those being the kids who really need to attend, and now the data says they were there if they weren't, well that seems like a big problem. The follow-up question could be that this same statement could be made about snack, we need to make sure the kids who really need it are getting it. Then automatic sign-in isn't a good idea for snack either...
- The Stakes: A homework help program is an ideal program for evaluation. Look at the test scores and grades for kids who attend at the beginning of a period and the end, was there change? Well, if you have kids who are listed as attending but did not, and maybe those are kids who really needed it, now their test scores and grades are being used to evaluate if that program is effective? This is going to throw your data all off and your ability to understand the difference this program is making and for who.
In conclusion, do we offer an automatic sign-in feature? We do. It can be a great time-saver for programs for simple, low-stakes data you need to record. But, we'd caution that it's not always a good idea when you look at it from a data quality perspective. If you have questions about automatic sign-in and when you should use it, reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.