On Thursday 11 November at half past two in the afternoon, 261 students gathered to take the exam for my course Foundation of Process Mining (2AMI10). Together with ten invigilators, I was present at the sports center to ensure that everything ran smoothly. It was truly satisfying to see all those students in person for the first time, after eight weeks of teaching and giving instructions via a video screen.

As customary, the students started with filling in a so-called 'attendance card' with their names, student numbers and course information. The invigilators carefully check these cards and sort them out in alphabetical order. The latter task is quite a challenge, considering the current variety of last names at TU/e. After the student has finished the exam, the invigilators check the student number for a second time.

When I was a student, I used to question the usefulness of these cards. When you’re a freshman, you think that they use these cards to register student attendance during exams. You later come to realize that such a thing is impossible, considering the number of students and exams. It would take an entire service a whole day to type out these (sometimes illegible) cards.

Now that I’m a teacher, I still wonder sometimes what these cards are used for. The invigilators present you with a stack of them, but no one ever tells you what you’re supposed to do with them. I have a cabinet full of cards like these from previous years. After a year or two, I simply throw them out with the waste paper.

Until this year. For the first time ever, I’ve actually used these cards! One of my students had filled in an incorrect student number on his ANS exam paper. An ANS exam is read by a computer so that you can correct it on the screen. After the teacher is finished with correcting the exam, students get access to their own scans, which include the teacher’s comments. But in this case, the student couldn’t find his exam, which led to an inquiring email.

As it turned out, he had inadvertently checked the boxes 11, even though his student number ends with 43. I could easily have assigned his exam to a different student, and I was about to do so until I realized that the student could have sent someone else in his stead, with a virtually identical student number, to take his exam. It was at that point that the attendance card proved its usefulness for the first time. Because it contained the student’s name (in neat handwriting), the correct student number and the correct number of the ANS pdf.

The student has his grade by now (he passed his exam easily) and I promise to appreciate the attendance card more from now on – and be more thankful to the invigilators for sorting them out alphabetically.

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