Wearable Tech World Feature Article
April 10, 2015

Oral Roberts University is Integrating Wearable Technology into its Online Curriculum

Oral Roberts University (ORU) in Tulsa, Oklahoma is expanding its innovative whole person education philosophy by incorporating wearable technology into its online learning curriculum. A partnership with Garmin will provide online students with its vivofit smartwatch and require them to track and report physical activity.

ORU strongly believes in the importance of physical wellness for its students and with this technology can now extend that sentiment to an online learning environment. The vivofit synchronizes with the university’s brand new online portal, which serves as a one-stop resource with tools for saving, planning and sharing fitness progress. The portal offers many other features designed to develop the whole person — such as access to university announcements, ORU Chapel archives, Christian news sources, recipes, fitness tips and daily devotionals — as well as a means to connect with ORU’s main campus and its comprehensive resources.

“We are deeply committed to using technology innovation to provide a one-of-a-kind whole person education to students around the globe,” said William M. Wilson, President of ORU. “We are excited for how the vívofit will transform the physical education we provide to ORU’s online students and look forward to future innovations as we continue to expand our course offerings.”

Garmin’s vivofit activity tracker is completely water resistant and features a one-year battery life to maximize convenience for its users. The vivofit sets a personalized daily step goal based on individual activity levels and can even notify the user if they’ve been inactive for too long; for online students sitting in front of a computer for hours this is an inevitable issue. The always-on display provides continuously updated data regarding steps, distance and calories as well as a countdown to the goal and, of course, the time of day. Extending functionality even further, it can also track sleep patterns and integrate with ANT+ heart rate monitors.

Beyond the apparent benefits of this program for improving the physical health of online students, researchers see this as an opportunity for gaining insight into students’ behavior. Wearable technology and the Internet of Things (IoT) is sometimes being referred to as the third wave of the Internet (after its development and then the proliferation of mobile devices), so it’s logical that it will have a profound impact on education sometime down the road. Initial pilot programs such as the one at ORU are ideal opportunities to begin assessing this technology’s place in higher education and developing ideas of the best ways to incorporate it.

The vivofit program is the first step in this process and complements the paper log system still being used on the physical ORU campus. In the future the university plans to expand smartwatch compatibility beyond a single model to let students bring their own device, implement a similar program for on-campus students and find new ways to integrate smartwatches and other forms of wearable technology into its curriculum and student resources.

Edited by Dominick Sorrentino

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