If pricy college tuition was not incentive enough to pay attention in class, a new app is aiming to increase the stakes.
Pocket Points, a mobile application developed by students at California State University, or Chico State, launched at the University last month. The app allows students to lock their phones during class, and the amount of time locked corresponds to a number of points that redeemable for discounts at local establishments.
The app was founded by Chico State students Rob Richardson and Mitch Gardner in the fall, and has now expanded to a number of schools across the country. The application uses location-based services to tell when a student is in class to prevent “cheating,” or looking at one’s phone.
LSA senior John Prickett, campus representative for Pocket Points, is a friend of the founders. Though professors often state on their syllabi that points will be taken off for the using phones in class, he said those policies do little to deter students.
“In the majority of classrooms, there never seems to be a respect of the trust between the teacher and the kids,” Prickett said. “My parents pay a lot for me to come here, and for me to come to class and sit on my phone for an hour and a half, what am I really getting out of that?”
According to Prickett, the application began at Chico State as a tool through which professors could award extra credit for good phone behavior. After failing to attract enough users, the founders discovered that offering discounts at local restaurants was much more effective as an incentive for students to use the application.
“It was sort of a pivotal moment for the app,” Prickett said. “They realized they weren’t getting the reaction they wanted to from the extra credit side, and who doesn’t like getting free discounts on food for paying attention in class?”
Prickett said Ann Arbor restaurants are currently on a trial period with the application, meaning it will be free for businesses to participate for the semester. The restaurants currently included are Pita Pit, The Brown Jug, The Blue Leprechaun, Comet Coffee, Get Some Burritos, Hunter House Hamburgers, Pita Kabob Grill, Pita Pit, Sottini’s Sub Shop and Tropical Smoothie Café.
Richardson and Gardner also recently added a feature that increases the rate of points accumulated if more students are using the program, thus incentivizing word-of-mouth between students.
Business junior Daniel Sonnabend is a frequent user and said the concept was very simple and easy to use.
“The rewards are tangible,” Sonnabend said. “It’s rewarding you for something positive you should already be doing.”
The application launched at Pennsylvania State University a few weeks before starting in Ann Arbor, and it has close to 7,000 users in University Park. After a week of marketing to students, close to 800 University students are using the application.
“We’re so academically focused, and we try to pursue the ‘Michigan Difference,’ but with this app you can really put your money where your mouth is,” Prickett said.
According to The Washington Post, “productivity” apps are currently a booming field in mobile-platform technology, but few products have been geared toward the classroom.
“I truly do believe in the app, and I think it has the potential to change the academic culture at an institutional level,” Prickett said. “I think with the rate that technology is growing, it’s only going to become a bigger part of everyone’s life.”