Is It 2016 or 1984? Oral Roberts University Makes Fitbits Mandatory to...

Big Data

Is It 2016 or 1984? Oral Roberts University Makes Fitbits Mandatory to Monitor Students’ Health

Feb 3, 2016

ALL THAT’S FIT(BIT) TO PRINT: We welcomed 2016 with an op-ed around what higher education can learn from Fitbits, those wristbands that record sleep, movement and other health data. One school took the cue—quite literally—in a move that many say raises the spectre of George Orwell’s “1984.”

Oral Roberts University, a private Christian college in Oklahoma, is requiring all incoming students to wear a Fitbit for purposes of “tracking aerobics points and fitness,” according to a university news release. Students’ data will be fed into and tracked via the Brightspace learning management system, designed by Canadian edtech company, Desire2Learn.

The university takes fitness seriously as part of its “Whole Person Education” philosophy. A representative told Ars Technica that one of the health courses requires students to take 10,000 steps every day, “and the app-tracked targets account for 20 percent of a student’s grade in the course.” The university maintains it is only tracking students’ steps and heart rate, and not their location based on GPS data.

The Fitbits don’t come free, either; students are expected to pay $140. The university says more than 550 devices have been sold so far. “Not only are you monitored and recorded, but you get to pay for the privilege,” observes the blog, Refinery29.

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