University News

Online Absence Reporting System Debuts This Fall

August 20, 2013

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MACOMB, IL -- Western Illinois University students reporting to the Macomb campus in August 2013 will find a new online system to report absences that replaces the former "medical excuse notes" once issued by the campus health center.

According to Jessica Harriger, a WIU economics assistant professor and chair of the Faculty Senate ad-hoc committee on medical absences, following recent flu epidemics and a previous staff shortage, a committee was formed, which included faculty representatives from each college, an SGA representative and the director of Beu Health Center. The group met to begin reviewing new absence documentation systems to alleviate the volume of requests at Beu and to hold students further accountable for their absences. As a result, the Online Absence Reporting System (OARS), which was created by Western's Center for Innovation in Teaching and Research (CITR), is in effect beginning with the Fall 2013 semester.

Students will be required to use OARS any time they miss class, regardless of reason (medical, personal, etc.). It is each faculty member's discretion on how to use the absence information based on his/her attendance policy. That is, the system doesn't excuse students from class, but rather helps students and faculty document absences, Harriger explained.

"In light of the H1N1 epidemic a few years ago, the faculty and Beu Health Center officials really felt a need for a new system for reporting absences. There was a great deal of confusion surrounding the appointment slips that were issued any time a student was seen at the health center. These slips did not validate illness, excuse students from class or provide any information regarding the visit. The new OARS system will allow health care providers at Beu to focus on treating patients rather than issuing appointment slips," Harriger said. "Beu will continue to issue documentation in severe cases in which the student's presence in class poses a threat to either the student's health or the health of others."

According to Beu Health Center Director Mary Margaret Harris, Beu Health Center's role is to provide access to appropriate healthcare for students.

"Many times it is appropriate for a student to stay home and rest, and not been seen by a healthcare provider (common colds, minor stomach upsets, etc.)," Harris said. "Directing students to OARS to report absences will promote responsible healthcare utilization and increase appointments available for students that are ill or injured."

To log on, students will go to and submit an absence form for that day's classes. The submission generates an automatic email to the relevant instructors. The information is also included in CITR's attendance tracking system, which can be used by faculty.

"This tracking information not only helps faculty that track attendance but also assists advisors and the Student Development Office in identifying students who may be struggling" Harriger added. "The system promotes responsible health consumerism as Beu's medical providers' time is not compromised by excuse note-seeking visits, and it provides a level of accountability that students will face when in the working world."

Other system components include promoting academic integrity and responsibility, providing early opportunities for intervention for students who need assistance, improving attendance tracking and supporting individual faculty policies.

For more information about OARS, email For technical assistance, contact the University Technology Support Center at 298-2704.

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