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Study of 3.1 Million Tweets Reveals Top Five Reasons Why College Students Skip Classes

Class120, a technology designed to help improve student success in higher education, teamed up with the social media analysis company Crimson Hexagon to find out why college students skip class.

“Early on in the process of creating Class120, I remember reading a quote from a professor alleging our college students are the only consumers that actually don’t want what they’ve paid for,” said Joe Montgomery, Chief Marketing Officer at Core Principle.

A recent study at Harvard University found 60 percent of students on average attended any given lecture, showing even at this prestigious institution many students are not asking for their money’s worth when it comes to class attendance. When Montgomery and the team at Core Principle began designing Class120, a smartphone-based system to monitor and improve college class attendance, they had to do more than develop patent-pending technology. They had to understand why college students pay for classes and then fail to attend.

“With the typical college student skipping up to an entire year’s worth of classes at a traditional four-year university, no one should be surprised that 45 percent of students fail to earn a diploma within six years of entering college,” said Montgomery. “But solving a problem of this magnitude demands a better understanding of what motivates today’s college students to skip class.”

An Unprecedented Look inside the Student Mind
Early in 2014, Core Principle partnered with Crimson Hexagon with the goal of providing parents and education professionals with greater insight into the causes of skipping class on American college campuses.

Using Crimson Hexagon’s platform to evaluate and categorize tweets on Twitter from January 2010 to March 2014, the two companies were able to identify and analyze more than 3.1 million Tweets sent by students on the topic of skipping class.

Among those Tweets, only 13 percent were students patting themselves on the back for not skipping, while 87 percent were students admitting to skipping class. And among those who confessed to skipping, a full 40 percent provided a specific reason why.

This data—consisting of nearly 1.1 million Tweets—provided Class120 with an unprecedented look into why students skip class, with five primary reasons becoming clear:

  • Hanging with Friends: 37 percent of the Twitter posts referenced skipping class to spend more time with their friends.
  • Too Tired: 32 percent of students tweeted that they were sleeping or too tired to go to class.
  • Recreation: 17 percent of students indicated a specific recreational event or activity that took precedence over attending class. There were a vast number of specific events mentioned, including sports, watching television and playing video games.
  • Studying: 11 percent of students mentioned being too busy with other school work to attend class.
  • Weather: three percent of students’ posts cited the weather—whether too beautiful or too unpleasant—as the reason they skipped.

Studies show that class attendance is the number one predictor of grades in a college course, outranking time spent studying, studying skills, high school grades or standardized tests. Despite this clear connection, even the most optimistic academic studies find that nearly one in five U.S. college students are skipping on any given day—with absentee rates reaching up to 70 percent for some large classes at major state universities.

Core Principle has mapped classroom buildings for more than 3,000 American college and university campuses, which gives college parents the ability to responsibly monitor the class attendance of their sons and daughters. The Class120 app uses geofencing technology that only allows Class120 and parents to know if a student’s smartphone was in a classroom or not. No other location data is shared by the student’s device and Class120. Montgomery stated that protecting student privacy was a paramount concern for the company.

Class120 was featured in The Wall Street Journal article “Cracking Down on Skipping Class” (January 14, 2015) as a promising solution for students at risk of dropping out due to poor class attendance.

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