Oral Roberts Requires Students To Wear Mandatory Fitbits


Freshmen at a college in Oklahoma will be required to use Fitbits, wearable fitness monitors, in an effort to meet strict fitness goals.

All 900 freshman students at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa were issued mandatory Fitbits this year as part of a new college requirement. The program will continue with each incoming class until all students at the school are using the devices as part of the schools' efforts to document its "whole person education" philosophy.

"ORU offers one of the most unique educational approaches in the world by focusing on the Whole Person — mind, body and spirit," ORU President William M. Wilson said in a statement. "The marriage of new technology with our physical fitness requirements is something that sets ORU apart."

Prior to the introduction of the Fitbit, students were required to carry paper notebooks in which they documented their exercise. Tables and charts were used to determine the value of varying activities, such as going for a jog or mowing the lawn. They then translated these activities using a point system. For example, a 10-minute mile was worth about 3.5 points. Each student must earn 30-50 points each week. Students are graded based on participation as well as their performance on an end-of-the-semester field test, typically consisting of a 1.5-mile run, reports Michael Hafford for Refinery29.

The University requires students to purchase the $150 devices themselves, which keep track of a range of data from movements to how well a person sleeps. Student Fitbits will only wirelessly report the number of steps taken each day as well as a students' heart rate to a school computer, which then logs the data. No other personal information will be recorded by the school, writes Todd C. Frankel for The Washington Post. Data will not be collected when school is not in session.

Students will be required to average 10,000 steps per day and 150 minutes of intense activity each week, which will be measured by heart rate. The data will make up a portion of their grade for health and physical education classes. Those who fail to do so will not be allowed to graduate, reports Marie Solis for News.Mic.

Freshman Eden Watson told Tulsa World, "[It] keeps you healthier and happier, and keeps you accountable. … It keeps me motivated to exercise more," adding that just walking around campus usually satisfies most of her weekly requirements. If not, it's to the gym.

While a number of corporate wellness programs have pushed the wearable fitness monitors, with Target offering free Basic Fitbits for all 335,000 of its US employees, Oral Roberts is in a league of its own in requiring the use of the devices at a college.

The 3,500 students who attend the religious school named for its founder, the late evangelist Oral Roberts, are also not allowed to smoke, drink, or engage in premarital sex.

Mike Matthews, who oversees data for ORU, said the school is looking for a way to measure the correlation between fitness and academic performance. Using the Fitbit will allow the school to monitor students around the world. "Our students can be in Africa for spring break and the system will still be recording data," Matthews said.

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