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Using Campus ID Cards for Attendance Tracking

Ryan O'Connell
posted this on October 11, 2010 12:34 PM

Summary

When a campus asks “how can we use our campus ID cards to track attendance with CollegiateLink,” there are several variables that need to be considered.  We’ve designed a number of functions within CollegiateLink that are easy to use but robust enough to work with any type of campus ID card or hardware swiping device so that campuses can successfully track attendance at events.

The process of an ID card attendance tracking program with CollegiateLink includes the following steps: purchasing equipment, system configuration, data collection, reporting, and assessment creation (using Campus Labs Baseline).

Purchasing Equipment

The first decision for a campus in designing an ID card tracking system is what type of card reader appliance is the best fit for the program.  At its most basic level, a card reader identifies information contained on the magnetic strip or barcode of the ID card and then records that information in a file (in CollegiateLink, on a computer program, or on the on-board memory of the appliance). 

The piece of data that should be collected is the unique identifier of the card (typically a number string of 5-9 characters).  Magnetic strips typically have 3 tracks, or areas of information, it is important to know which track the unique ID number is on before purchasing a card reader appliance so that you are sure the appliance can read the appropriate track.

If you intend to use CollegiateLink's live card-swiping interface, you must ensure that your device meets the following two criteria:

  1. Device provides keyboard emulation. You will know if a device provides keyboard emulation if you connect it to a computer, open any text editing application such as Notepad, and then swipe or scan a card ID; if information from the card appears in the text editor, then the device is likely working through keyboard emulation. Devices are often also available as being HID-compliant instead of providing keyboard emulation. HID-based devices may still work and act as described in the example above, but often require additional software or drivers to be installed on the computer to which the device is connected.

  2. Device inserts carriage returns (i.e., the "enter" key) after each swipe or scan. Some devices do not insert carriage returns by default, but can be configured to do so. Please consult with the device hardware vendor for more information. Note: it is not explicitly required that your device insert carriage returns after each swipe--if it doesn't, you can always hit the "enter" key manually or press the submit button on the card ID entry screen.

Campus Labs does not explicitly endorse any vendor, specific brand, or hardware model. The following list of vendors and descriptions of hardware types are based on information gathered from campuses who use CollegiateLink and have collected card ID data for event attendance tracking purpose.

USB-based Card Readers for use with computers:

  • Pricing: ~$45.00 - $100.00 per unit
  • Uses: collecting card swipes at fixed locations or offices with easy access to power and a computer
  • Pros: cost effective, standardized
  • Cons: limited mobility, requires attachment to computer via USB

Wireless Card Readers for use with computers

  • Pricing: ~$200.00 - $400.00 per unit
  • Uses: collecting card swipes at locations without power or with various points of entry
  • Pros: greater mobility and ease of use
  • Cons: easier to lose, data may have to be downloaded from device for upload into CollegiateLink

Handheld Card Readers for use with mobile devices

  • Pricing: ~$100.00 - $1,000.00 per unit
  • Uses: collecting card swipes at locations without power or with various points of entry utilizing touch/tablet devices
  • Pros: greater mobility, ease of use, and compatible with a common resource found on campus (e.g., Apple devices)
  • Cons: high cost, multiple pieces of hardware, may require download of an additional app

System Configuration

In order for CollegiateLink to understand the data that is collected and associate it with users the system first needs to be configured to identify the specific unique information that is contained on the magnetic stripe or barcode of an ID card.  To set up the CollegiateLink system there are two options to discuss with a campus support specialist. 

  1. Passing each user's card ID information into the CollegiateLink database upon login.

  2. Uploading a master list of card ID information into the database at periodic intervals which associates the card ID information with user information in CollegiateLink. 

The primary piece of information that CollegiateLink needs to understand card information is the format of the information that is provided on a card and the specific piece of the string that is recognized as an idenitfying piece of information.

For example a full set of data on a mag strip may look like this:

<<<STUDENTNAME>>>078>>0012345>>>

And the identifying piece of data is the campus card # which in this example is represented by:

0012345

Once CollegiateLink understands the format of a swipe/scan and which piece of it that it should recognize the system is configured.

Data Collection

Using your selected card reader collect the unique ID information contained on your campus cards.  For simplicity and ease of use it is important to only collect 1 unique ID number per person who is attending. There are two options for collecting this information:

  1. In real-time using CollegiateLink swipe interface

  2. By collecting the data into a .csv file that can then be uploaded into CollegiateLink via the “Track Attendance” section the event information. Upon upload the attendance data will be associated with the correct user information.

Reporting

Once the data has been uploaded into CollegiateLink simple attendance information, as well as the ability to comment on those who attended is instantly available via the “track attendance” area of the system, this information can also be exported as .csv files via the administrative area of the system.

Assessment Creation

If your campus is also a Baseline member a panel can be created in order to pull demographic data and generate a recipient list for assessment activities by contacting your Campus Labs Assessment Consultant.

 

Comments

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CSU RamLink

In researching different card reader options to implement at Colorado State University, I've come across quite a few apps for either Android or iOS that have some interesting features. One that would work for exporting information read from a barcode scan to a spreadsheet that can be emailed is called Scan to Spreadsheet by Berry Wing, LLC. With such a large number of students, faculty, and staff who regularly use smartphones, it would be great if Collegiate Link would develop a simple mobile app that would interface with the attendance tracking features of Collegiate Link. One company that is a great example of using a smartphone app to interface with their website is EventBrite. They provide a free app to use to track attendance and validate tickets that are purchased through their system. The app just uses the smartphone camera to scan the barcodes or QR codes on their tickets. An app similar to that would add great value to the CollegiateLink package including the card swiping feature.

October 03, 2013 02:11 PM
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