A new academic year equals changes around university. With our beloved Eddie B being renovated and the Hidden Café mysteriously having disappeared to a very hidden place, this year is no exception. But it is not just campus that is changing: technology is adapting, with the new Bluetooth attendance system, much to the distaste of most students. At least Fruity is still Fruity though.
If you are currently studying at the University of Leeds, the new Bluetooth attendance system will be impossible to avoid. From this September and on-wards, students will have to check in on their smartphones through the University of Leeds app every time they attend a lecture or seminar. Additionally, the app can track exactly where the students are, and they can only register to classes, if they are in the correctly appointed lecture hall. Clearly, this new system could seem like a good idea: it saves time, it creates motivation to attend lectures and it secures that all students go to the right location for their lectures and seminars. However, the Bluetooth system also seems to have a lot of problems: problems that, in many students’ opinions, ring Orwellian tunes.
Firstly, the new check in feature is highly inconsiderate towards students that do not own smartphones. There is an alternative for these people, as they can go to a computer on campus and register to their classes, but nonetheless the system still favours the university students that own smartphones. The university claims the check-in system to be easier for everyone, but it is only more convenient for those who own a certain type of phone. In this way, students that do not own a smartphone, whether it is a choice or not, are somewhat excluded by the university’s system. It seems wrong to categorise people into ‘who owns what’, and it seems like the creators behind the Bluetooth idea have not taken everyone’s way of life into perspective.
The check-in system is also damaging to the idea of independent learning. There is no doubt that the Bluetooth system was partly introduced to heighten attendance levels at the university, but it does not seem relevant to force people to go to class at this stage of their education. First and foremost, people should be going to university because they want to learn, and should be taught to organise their own time whilst studying independently. They should not be forced to show up to classes, as if it were a chore and not a choice. That is a structure that should have been left behind at school.
There are many more problematic angles to the Bluetooth system, but one of the most worrying ones is the tracking. In a time where Google and Facebook basically already know everything about everyone’s location, it is concerning that institutions of higher education are following some of the same trends. We as students have never asked to be monitored, and it feels slightly 1984 that our institution can now locate us on campus, and make sure that we are in the correct rooms at the correct time.
The new Bluetooth system definitely means well, and the positive sides to it can of course not be ignored either. Whilst becoming better at monitoring students, it will make the university more aware of students who are skipping lectures because they are struggling, and most importantly make the institution take action to reach out to them. In a recent YouGov survey it was discovered that many British students are struggling with mental health issues at university, whilst not receiving sufficient help. The new Bluetooth system has perhaps been introduced to monitor issues like that. Further, it is an effective system that will both save time in lectures, and save paper from all of the registration sheets in the long run. However, even with good intentions, it cannot be ignored that this form of monitoring is a troubling societal trend that is affecting our lives. All we can do is stay critical towards it and hope that Big Brother takes a break from watching us once in a while.