I've been thinking about attendance and it's effect on grades and then the online corollary - frequency of access to the course shell and participation in discussions. Today @Busynessgirl tweeted a Chronicle article: http://chronicle.com/article/Just-Showing-Up-Educators/127765/?key=G28hIlc8NyEXbH0wZDoQNjhVPXBpY0p7MiQYa3JwblFRFw%3D%3D on the same topic.
The majority of my teaching career has been with adult students - not the 18 to 19 year old crowd, but the 28-34 year old crowd. In my mind they are all adult enough to decide for themselves whether or not they are coming to class. And yet..... I don't have a formal study across many classes regarding participation and login frequency and their relationship to class success, but just in my own classes the students who login 3 to 4 times a week and are active on the discussion board do complete successfully at a higher rate than those who do not login.
That means I require participation on the discussion boards and I tie that participation to course grades. lately it hasn't been a lot of points, not even the difference between and A and a B, but still, there are points involved.
As a side note: attendance and participation aren't quite the same thing. Attendance in a F2F course means seat time and seat time is a proxy for things like learning outcomes, knowledge, etc. Participation is probably a better proxy for learning outcomes and knowledge attained. Clearly you can have attendance without much participation (especially in 8:00 am classes). But participation requires attendance.
Also relevant: The Two Lies of Teaching from Dy/Dan, http://blog.mrmeyer.com/?p=10652.
(Photo credit: From Hey Mr Glen, http://www.flickr.com/photos/glenscott/3494424538/)