Advantages of using Bluetooth beacons for automatic attendance tracking in education include:
Improved accuracy: Bluetooth beacons can accurately detect the presence of students in the classroom, reducing the likelihood of errors in attendance tracking.
Time-saving: Automating attendance tracking with Bluetooth beacons can save time for teachers and administrative staff, as they do not need to manually record attendance.
Real-time tracking: Bluetooth beacons can provide real-time attendance tracking data, allowing teachers and administrative staff to monitor attendance in real-time.
Safety and security: Alerts can be provided when students enter prohibited areas.
Bluetooth beacons can be used for automatic attendance tracking in education by placing them in the classroom or lecture hall and configuring them to detect the presence of students’ Bluetooth-enabled devices such as smartphones or tablets. When a student enters the range of the beacon, the beacon sends a signal to their device, which can then be used to record their attendance. The main problem with this setup is that students might accidentally disable detection. Not all smartphones/tablets work the same and there can be incompatibilities and the requirement for high levels of support. Also, a detection app needs to be created and distributed. The scanning for beacons can also reduce smartphone/tablet battery life.
An alternative setup is to have the students carry the beacons and use gateways to detect attendance. Data is set to a server running software such as BeaconRTLS™ or BeaconServer™. Attendance reports can run against the historical RTLS data.
The Journal of Physics has new research into a Student Attendance Manager Using Beacons and Deep Learning (pdf).
The system automatically registers attendance without disturbing the class. It uses an iBeacon in each classroom to determine location. It also uses a camera and deep learning analysis to prevent students cheating the system by having someone else attend. The researchers say the system is better than biometric scanning and RFID that requires manual reading one by one.
The solution uses iBeacons but it’s the Bluetooth MAC address that’s used for room identification. The scanner and camera interface uses a Raspberry Pi that sends data to a server.
SEAtS Software, a student attendance monitoring solution has a new article that takes a look at options for implementing student attendance monitoring. It compares using iBeacons, mag stripe card readers, GPS, WiFi and QR codes.
The article concludes that iBeacons are best because they are easy to install, provide the best accuracy, are affordable, easy to use and reduce administration time.
Research took place in a school in the UK in June 2017 using a platform called Studywiz and the eLockers iOS app. It looked into the use of iBeacons to provide for enquiry-based learning, independent learning and individualisation.
The initial description of beacons is misleading:
“Beacons consist of a database inside a plastic casing (see Figure 2). They are ‘pas-sive’ (McDonald & Glover 2016, p. 3) pieces of technology that simply ‘push’ their content to any receptive device.”
This isn’t true. The content lies somewhere else, usually in an app or on a server.
The research found that beacons can be used to allow students to learn at their own pace while relieving teachers to provide move individual tuition. There were technical challenges with local network connectivity and closeness of beacons but these were eventually resolved.
Jamf School is a device management solution for education. It allows you to track devices and see their status. It uses iBeacon to allow subject learning material to be unlocked when students enter specific areas.
The Jamf web site has some useful content on using iBeacons in education:
iBeacons in Education Video webinar on proximity-based technology and how it can be used to distribute and manage technologies in education environments. Covers privacy considerations, casper suite and jamf.
A common usecase for beacons is time and attendance management. This involves needing to know who has been where and for how long.
Our gateways have been used in education for automatically recording student registration. They have been particularly suitable in ‘open lab’ type scenarios where there’s not always staff around to record attendance. Beacons are given to students that are recorded by gateways. It’s also possible to have the gateways act as beacons so that smartphone apps can unlock things such as electronic teaching materials on a student-by-student basis.
Another usecase is personal tracking of time spent in places or on projects for expensing to clients. Again, this can be done accurately and automatically.
A further usecase we have come across is the use of our beacons on evidence-based policing. Police officers on the beat often have to account for how long they have spent at particular locations. An Android app carried by officers records beacons (location) and sends the data to a central server. This prevents the need for paper based processes to determine who has been where.
There’s ready made software available such as Seats Software and Calamari. However, we find that clients sometimes have more specific, yet simpler needs that don’t necessarily map well to ready-made solutions.