Skipping college classes is par for the course when it comes to higher learning, especially if you think of the experience as a four-year continuum. Who among us has not decided — for better or for worse — to forgo a lecture for an afternoon of productive studying, unavoidable appointments, or even just simple decompressing.

Skip Class Calculator, launched in February, helps students decide by calculating the algorithm of responses to 10 questions.

To weigh the risks and benefits, students are asked questions, such as:

– What is the date of your next major quiz or exam?

– Does this class have some sort of attendance policy?

– How much of the exam material do you feel comes from lectures only?

I took a sample test and was given the following advice:

“Hmmm… looks like it’s OK to skip – but I wouldn’t say you are Ferris Bueller safe. If today was the day where your prof answers all of life’s most important questions, would you be upset? By the way, you have already skipped 2% of this semester’s classes. Your next test or quiz is 10 days away.”
According to an article by eCampus News, the site has drawn a lot of attention from academic circles. Surprisingly, some teachers favor the site and even include it on their course home page.
“If a class is moderately difficult, it could make [a student] think long and hard about making it to class and paying more attention,” said [Michael Anderson, a lecturer in statistics courses at the University of Texas San Antonio,] one of many educators and students to post reviews on the Skip Class Facebook page. “It’s another way for them to go out and get independent advice. … We can tell them all day long to come to class, but students tend to trust that kind of objective source much more.”
As you might expect, other professors beg to differ.
“… Anybody earnestly using [the calculator] should not only skip, but should drop out of school altogether,” said [William] Briggs, an adjunct professor of statistical science at Cornell University.]
As more schools offer online classes — as well as lecture material, resources, and exams for traditional classes — even this site may soon be unnecessary.
Read more from the perspective of Jim Filbert, who launched the site.
  • I have to agree with William Briggs–if someone needs a “calculator” to figure out if he/she can forgo a class or not, that person lacks the critical thinking skills necessary to completing college successfully. I taught writing for nine years at SFSU. The students who did well attended nearly every class (we all get sick or have an emergency occasionally), and they did so because they realized how much material we covered every day. They didn't need a “calculator” to figure out that missing my class a lot would lead to poor performance (and a low grade) overall. By the same token, many students complained to me about teachers who did nothing more than regurgitate to the class the material that was in the textbook. Again, these students did not need some special app to determine they could miss the class and still learn the material.

    To me, this “calculator” is just walking students through the steps of what used to be called “common sense.”

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