An app called Pocket Points has a unique approach to eliminating classroom distractions: it rewards students for staying off their phones while in class.
The app has been downloaded more than 200,000 times, helped students stay off of their phones for millions of hours and is currently used by students in over 100 universities across the country.
Pocket Points was introduced at the Chico State University in California in 2014 after two students, Mitch Gardner and Rob Richardson, realized how many students are preoccupied with their phones while in class. To start collecting points, students have to open their Pocket Point app and lock their phone. The more their phone stays locked, the more points students collect. Students then redeem their points for freebies and products and services at discounted prices at local business and online stores.
The initial idea by Richardson and Gardner was to have professors reward students for staying off their phones with extra credit, something professors didn’t like and which led the duo to get companies involved in the rewards program, Vanessa Daves of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln writes in USA Today.
For Kelli Britten, an advertising and PR lecturer at Nebraska-Lincoln, the app only tackles one problem because it lets tablets and laptops capture students’ attention in class:
“I don’t think it combats the idea that students are still active on their laptops and iPads.”
While the app only collects points when students are on campus, it still has to be improved upon so that students don’t abuse it to earn points while they’re in their dorms or another location besides a designated classroom or lecture hall. Gardner acknowledged the app’s limitations in this regard. He said, according to Daves:
“If they’re trying to cheat the app by going on campus and watching Netflix on their computer, that’s not what it’s meant for but there’s no way to stop that,” he said. “Our goal is help them study or focus, so if they do that, we’ve succeeded.”
The more students at one campus use Pocket Points, the faster points are rewarded, FSU News says. Some of the businesses collaborating with Pocket Points rewards program include Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts, Pizza Hut, Papa John’s and Subway.
Alyssa Schnugg at the Clarion Ledger features student views on using the app. They say the app helps them pay more attention in class and earns them free items and discounts. A 19-year-old pre-pharmacy student emphasized how important discounts and freebies are for students trying to save money. Another student at the University of Georgia said of the app, according to Red & Black:
“I know I’ve had urges to go check my phone in the middle of class or while I’m studying, but when I know Pocket Points is on, I don’t want to mess up my time,” Kaitlyn Conner said. “So it’s just made me aware of how much I am on my phone.”
So far, students have collectively stayed off of their phones for the equivalent of 200 years or 1.7 million hours, Gardner says.