Feb 18 2016

University Requires Freshmen to Use Wearable Tech

By instituting a policy for wearables, Oral Roberts University is on the leading edge of higher ed tech trends.

An Oklahoma university is putting wearable technologies into action.

At Oral Roberts University, in Tulsa, Okla., incoming freshmen are put on a strict fitness regimen monitored by Fitbit wearable devices. A minimum of 10,000 steps each day is required of students, whose physical activity is fed into the university’s learning-management system, BrightSpace, effectively making their fitness data part of their grade book, according to a post on the university’s website.

“ORU is dedicated to creating innovative academic solutions for our global student population,” said ORU Provost Kathaleen Reid-Martinez in the post. “We are excited to offer this cutting-edge technology that will enhance our on-campus student’s experience and increase the convenience of our fitness programs.”

In years past, students were required to manually log their physical activity in a fitness journal as part of the university’s Whole Person Education program. Bringing Fitbit into the mix automates the process and perhaps keeps students more honest about their aerobic activities.

Since the program launched this year, more than 550 Fitbit devices have been sold, according to the university.

Reid-Martinez told Inside Higher Ed that using wearable technologies, even at this early stage of their adoption, helps the university maintain a commanding lead on tech trends.

“If you have a piece of technology that remains separate from the entire learning process, there’s a higher probability that it remains a fad that comes and goes,” she said. “If we do not begin to experiment with these wearable technologies in natural areas, I don’t think we’ll be able to harness the technology for the learners of the future.”

Sales of wearable technologies are on the rise, according to a recent study from the market research firm Gartner. The devices are on track to reach $28.7 billion in sales in 2016, Gartner projects, with 274.6 million units this year. Of that amount, wristbands such as Fitbit will reach nearly 35 million sales this year.

"Fitness wearables — which include wristbands, smart garments, chest straps, sports watches and other fitness monitors — continue to increase in popularity, driven in some part by U.S. wellness programs," according to Gartner.

Photos by Fitbit

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