As part of the pedagogic process, course attendance policies are determined by faculty at the college, departmental or individual course level. Occasionally, students may have disabilities that impact their ability to attend class. While DSP can verify that the student’s disability may cause difficulty with course attendance and an accommodation may be in order, it is within a faculty member’s expertise to determine whether modifying course attendance policies is reasonable. In some cases, attendance is fundamental to course objectives; for example, students may be required to interact with others in the class, to demonstrate the ability to think and argue critically, or to participate in group projects. In other instances, faculty may determine that students can master course content despite some or many absences. Rarely, faculty may decide that students do not need to attend classes at all.
Typically, faculty are not required to lower or affect substantial modifications of standards for accommodation purposes. The United States Department of Education Office of Civil Rights, which enforces disability law in higher education, uses the following heuristic to determine if class attendance is fundamental to course participation:
- Is there classroom interaction between the instructor and students, and among students?
- Do student contributions constitute a significant component of the learning process?
- Does the fundamental nature of the course rely upon student participation as an essential method for learning?
- To what degree does a student’s failure to attend constitute a significant loss to the educational experience of other students in the class?
- What does the course description and syllabus say?
- What is the method by which the final course grade is calculated?
- What are classroom practices and policies regarding attendance?
- How is attendance related to the learning outcomes of the course?
- Are there any alternative methods that the student can acquire/demonstrate mastery of the skill that would meet the same learning outcomes of the course when not considering attendance as a factor?
- Are there other faculty teaching the same course/content? If yes, is the attendance policy the same in all sections of the course?
Students in need of attendance modifications are encouraged to communicate with their professors at the beginning of the semester so that there is a clear and shared understanding of how attendance may impact a student’s ability to meet course requirements.