Is it just me, or is iLancaster being a little bit creepy?

Is there more to iLancaster's new tracking features than meets the eye?


Maybe it’s just me – but there’s something a little bit creepy about the University using my phone to check I’m going to my lectures.

ISS insists that this app does not “track” students – it doesn’t know where you are, but it knows if you’re not where you’re supposed to be. It uses Bluetooth and iBeacons located around campus to detect if you are in the room of your timetabled lecture or seminar. It will notify you if you are not in the correct place at the correct time.

I’m not looking forward to getting a notification on my mobile asking why I am not where I should be. It’ll feel like I’m in an episode of Black Mirror, or dating someone massively overprotective.

And it’s not just the compulsory seminars they’re watching either – non-compulsory events such as lectures are now recorded in the exact same way as seminars. What will departments do with this information? Will there be suspicions if I perform well in a test when I missed the relevant lecture? Will I not get help if I ask questions about a lecture I was too hungover to go to?

Of course – the University loses lots of money when students drop out, and so they are keen to spot those who are at risk of dropping out early on. This new move will help them do that. But that reveals something horrid about how the culture of education is changing. University is no longer just for people who like learning, or care about their subject. To a certain extent, it’s not even for people who want a degree. By monitoring our attendance so carefully, the University is acknowledging that there are people here who don’t care.

There’s something about it that makes me feel that University is turning into a bigger Sixth Form. The University is keeping tabs on us as if we don’t want to be here, or as if we’re too ignorant to understand the consequences of ditching lectures. University is supposed to develop skills for the workplace and for life: self-motivation and independence are two important skills, and by babying us for our attendance the University is taking away our chance to develop these skills.

I’m not opposed to registration at certain events in the timetable: but I do have a few issues with this latest update to iLancaster. Coming to University should be a chance to exercise your independence, be treated like an adult, learn about consequences. I wonder how long we’ve got left before microchips enforce a curfew on us.

But even then, I ain’t going to my Thursday 9am.