Fitbit is the world’s leading activity tracker manufacturer. Their technology is used by wearable devices to monitor the activity levels and in the more sophisticated models, such as the Charge HR shown above, can calculate steps climbed, heart rates and more. These small activity trackers have become popular around the world and this has caught the attention of the Oral Roberts University, Tulsa. From last fall, Oral Roberts have mandated that all freshmen wear the Fitbit tracker, in what is believed to be the first university to require an activity tracker to be worn. However, the Oral Roberts University is not the usual school: this is a religious school named after the late founder, evangelist Oral Roberts. Students and staff are banned from drinking, smoking and premarital sex.
Whilst the Fitbit project started in the fall and has involved nine hundred freshmen, the university has required students record their physical activity for many years. The use of the Fitbit trackers has greatly simplified the process and the data is used to quantify the student’s health and fitness, which in turn is used to provide a grade. The university’s “life education” system had required students to manually collect information about their activity during the week but until last year, had relied on a somewhat traditional pen, paper, chart and computation method. Students and tutors used an established system to tally up points for various activities such as jogging, mowing the lawn, playing basketball and similar. Students were also required to take their heart rate.
Now the university has changed how it works and is requiring all freshmen to wear Fitbits, following a two year study of the devices and technology. Professor Fritz Huber explained that the old fashioned pen and paper method was not very accurate and that the only complaints about the Fitbit route the university has taken has been about the cost of the devices. One potential complaint is about privacy data, but the university only records the step count and heart rate information – other data is not kept by the university computer system. As for the requirements: 10,000 steps a day and 150 minutes of intense physical activity a week, as measured by the device heart rate monitor.