Oral Roberts University made headlines recently with news that all first-year students will be required to buy and wear a Fitbit, one of the many fitness-trackers that have come to market in recent years.
The device, worn on the wrist, uses an accelerometer to turn movement into digital measurements that can track steps taken, distance traveled and calories burned.
While some critics called the university’s requirement an overreach, school officials say Oral Roberts has long had a fitness component as part of its “Whole Person Education,” which focuses on mind, body and spirit.
In fact, Oral Roberts is one of a shrinking breed of institutions with a fitness requirement. A study by Oregon State University notes that 39 percent of colleges and universities had the requirement in 2012, down from a high of 97 percent in 1920.
All undergraduates must take a physical fitness course each semester, says Oral Roberts Provost Kathleen Reid-Martinez. That includes a required 150 minutes of activity per week.
Students also have to walk an average of 10,000 steps each day (around 5 miles, by some measures) to help meet that goal. Students with disabilities follow plans customized to their needs.
Previously, students had to manually log aerobics points in a fitness journal, but activity tracking is now automatic because the Fitbits link to the school’s LMS.
“The marriage of new technology with our physical fitness requirements is something that sets ORU apart,” President William Wilson said in a statement. “In fact, when we began this innovative program in the fall of 2015, we were the first university in the world to offer this unique approach.”
The university’s campus bookstore reports nearly 600 devices sold so far, although students may purchase the Fitbit from any retailer.