Activity Tracking – Fitbit for Higher Education with SEAtS

Katie Winter
Director of Business Development, US

Have you read this article? “How Wearables have Influenced Data Use In Higher Education” by Patrick Cole.
The biggest takeaway: “Giving Students Access To Data Can Cause Changes In Behaviour”. It’s too bad that Higher Education leaders, administrators and instructors fail to execute on known strategies to change students behaviour. If you’ve read anything about Higher Education in the United States lately you’ll know that student retention and graduation are hot topics. At most public universities only 19% of college students graduate within 4 years. Whoa! That’s a lot of extra tuition parents are paying and more money taken out in student loans.

We also know from studies like “Class Attendance in College: A Meta-Analytic Review of the Relationship of Class Attendance with Grades and Student Characteristics,” (Review of Educational Research, 2010), that class attendance is highly correlated with grades and academic achievement. Seems obvious, right? Go to class, get better grades.

Now do most students keep track of their own class attendance, study hours, time spent in the library, etc? Well according to my niece who is in a prominent Nursing program at a major 4-year public university in the US…no students don’t keep track of that data. They might have a vague idea, but unless an instructor is taking attendance and keeping a real-time record of it online for students to access then students don’t really know.
So if regular class attendance is a strong predictor of student grades and academic achievement is tied to increased likelihood of graduating college, then why don’t more instructors take attendance?
Response I hear most often: “Students in college are adults and should be treated that way. It’s their decision to attend class and they must be held accountable.” Or, I’m part of a faculty union (can anyone say “California”) and I’m not taking attendance if it’s not part of my contract.” OK, I understand those points, but they aren’t helping students. Students are the college’s customers. They pay to attend – in some cases tens of thousands of dollars per year. So why not service your customers and make sure they are happy and reach their goals?

Instead instructors and whole institutions fail to take attendance or refuse to do so. Or, even worse, they take attendance and don’t share that data across the institution (student affairs, academic affairs, registrar, financial aid, advising, etc.) Consequence: that data is kept hidden or isolated within the silos of Higher Education institutions.

Why not let students be responsible for and accountable to their own success in college? What’s one major way institutions could create accountability in their students? By sharing data with students and creating transparency and visibility in real-time. Most millennials and even people in their late thirties, like me, love information about themselves. There are apps that track our mood, calories, exercise, steps, relationships, etc. What about something for students that also benefits institutions providing accurate and timely information about what’s going on with each student? That data could be used at the institutional level for learning analytics, student relationship management, federal aid reporting, etc.
Most importantly I believe students want to know how they’re doing in college so they can make good decisions that lead to graduation or transfer. How many students do you know that want to attend college additional semesters and pay more tuition lengthening their time to earning money? I don’t know any students like that and I’ve worked in education with college students for 12 years.

So let’s stop procrastinating and making excuses.

Students – if your college or instructor won’t take attendance or track your activities in class or online courses, but you want to know your stats – how many class hours attended, studying hours completed, library hours, working hours – and how that time management is helping or hurting you, then take the power into your own hands. We’ve got an app for that. Follow us on twitter @SEAtSSoftware

Colleges and Universities – The attendance and activity tracking data becomes even more powerful when you support it by providing the tools to students to enhance the college experience. We can help you do it. It only takes a few weeks to get started. For a free 30-minute Expert Consultation contact me on Twitter @ktwintz or @SEAtSSoftware

If students want to know how many calories they burned today, surely they want to know if they’re going to pass Intro Psychology before the midterm exam or final. Put the power in the hands of the students and get the institutional data needed to make data-driven decisions.

Fitbit for Higher Education should be called Fitbit for Graduation. After all the goal isn’t just to go to college, it’s to graduate.