How Do You Track Student Engagement With Distance Learning?

While recent events have thrust schools headfirst into distance learning, many are finding that they are struggling to adapt some of the most basic daily activities, like tracking whether or not students are participating. With students, teachers, and even devices now at home, the reliance on technology has never been greater. Like many of the schools we work with, Google Workspace has taken an even more prominent role in the daily lives of students and staff, with many districts seeing huge upticks in Google Drive, Meet, and Classroom usage, and they have the support tickets to prove it. The familiar question that tech departments are wrestling with now is: How do we know when students are not engaging with the online resources and activities we’re offering?

Measuring student engagement is not a new question for schools, but the absence of in-person instruction makes it a much harder one to answer. Many IT departments are looking to technology – analytics and data – to help solve this problem. At the very basic level, knowing whether or not students are even logging in to their school Google Workspace accounts can be the most important indicator of disengagement. Eston Melton, Executive Director of Information Services at City Schools of Decatur, offered a simple solution in our CDW Education Collaborative online community: Gopher for Users.

Using Gopher for Users, an Add-on for Google Sheets, Eston was able to pull the native login reports in the tool to see the number of students who have logged in within the past 7 days, 7-14 days, 14-30 days, and beyond. Particularly the Looker Studio reports, which create a visual, explorable dashboard that can be shared with other district leaders. Once set up, this dashboard refreshes daily as your user data changes.

For more granular login details, down to the most recent login time for any given user, you can refer to the Google Sheet itself to isolate your disengaged users. Using a filter on the Last Login Time column, you can find those users who are not logging in to their Google Workspace account within the given time frame (whether that’s today, this week, or this month), and take further action from here.

There are a couple of caveats to this. First, mobile and Android use may fail to capture accurate login data, for which there is unfortunately no good solution. Second, if your students are using Chromebooks at home there are a few settings that, when not set restrictively, can allow user sessions to carry on for an indefinite amount of time. This results in a last login time that is not indicative of engagement, as a student may be online today, but on a session started last week, so their login recency will show an older date. Luckily there are two easy ways to fix this.

First, check your Lid Close Action in Chrome user settings. Ideally, you want to log the user out upon lid close and set an idle time limit.

Second, you can utilize the new Session Length Limit setting to force users to log back in within a given amount of time, usually between 8 and 24 hours.

With these settings activated, you can now be relatively certain that user login times are accurate with a reasonable margin of error for Chromebook users in particular, and you can utilize Gopher for Users to gain the insights you need and share them with your team. While the Looker Studio reports are not included in the trial version of the tool, basic Sheet functionality, including bulk changes, is available and the filtering option shown above can be used during trial. Request a quote or add the Add-On in Sheets to get started.


Document Version Date Description of Change
1.0 3/12/2023 Redirected link away from AIT site to CDWG
1.1 5/28/2024 Removed author block


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