Interactive Equipment: How Georgia Tech is Personalizing Student Fitness

The Georgia Institute of Technology, more commonly known as “Georgia Tech,” is integrating groundbreaking technology and personalizing student fitness to foster academic success on campus.

Partnering with Gtlyfe, the Georgia Tech Campus Recreation Complex (CRC) is implementing programs that will give students a more personalized workout experience. They are achieving this through new sensor technology on exercise equipment paired with an interactive app students can download.

To learn more about this innovative initiative and its benefits for students, Campus Rec Magazine spoke with Michael Edwards, the senior director of campus recreation, health and well-being, and Caroline Dotts, the associate director for healthy lifestyle programs, at Georgia Tech:

CR: What is Georgia Tech’s average six-year graduation rate for undergraduate students?

ME: Our graduation rates for the past several years have hovered around 81.5 to 86.3 percent. We can’t speak for the university, but we are always striving for great retention and graduation rates at Georgia Tech. The CRC strives to play a vital role in student engagement on campus and, therefore, positively impact those rates.

CR: How has the CRC marketed the Gtlyfe platform to the student body?

ME: We have worked in conjunction with Gtlyfe to promote the pilot portion via flyers, tabling at both the CRC and our Student Center, and through our own social media channels. We chose to keep the pilot small so we could navigate the information and ensure the platform worked before rolling it out to the whole student body.

CR: Was there any concern on campus about privacy and security in relation to accessing students’ schedules and other personal information?

ME: No, not for the pilot. The only data we accessed was the data that was allowed by the student and what they wanted to share. They opted in for the release of data they chose to share. Also, any data we received was segmented and anonymized. We did not receive any personal, individual profile data. Finally, nothing in the CRC side of the platform was confidential information.

CR: Have there been any challenges in getting the program started?

ME: There were some challenges to work through, particularly on the hardware side. We had a few sensors go missing to curious Georgia Tech students, as well as some that stopped working during the pilot. We also had a few issues with connectivity and bandwidth, but all of these issues were resolved fairly quickly so both Gtlyfe and the CRC could focus more time and attention to the usage and app awareness side.

CR: Has the program been successful in helping students meet fitness goals?

ME: The pilot, in its scope, was able to give us a snapshot into student patterns and behaviors. A longer period of time would be needed to measure statistically significant successes. However, anecdotally, we knew students who used the app to plan for their workouts in the CRC did follow through with coming to the CRC. From the pilot data, we found that 34 percent of the GTLyfe users that selected CRC in the app and planned a visit actually showed up.

CR: This initiative is in its early stages still, but have any new changes been implemented based on data you’ve received?

ME: Yes. We have received valuable insight on which machines actually get more usage — for Georgia Tech, our students prefer the middle of the room, no matter what equipment is available there. Knowing this, we have begun to redesign our fitness floor, starting with some movement of machines to new locations to see if we can create a more welcoming space for the entire area of the floor and not just the middle. We are also exploring some new technology with a fitness equipment manufacturer on how to capture the physical sensors in the machine itself — not as a stand-alone sensor.

CR: What social benefits can this platform have for students? Can they use it to create community?

ME: There are many social engagement pieces already built into the app. The latest version allows users to link up with friends who may be on their way to the CRC – or has it show up in the schedule that they are going to the CRC at some point in the day. It also has a chat feature that allows users to talk directly to other students that have selected the same “group” as them — in our case, the CRC group. Our hope is that health and well-being communities can be created and driven by this platform that allows students to engage other students in healthy, active lifestyles – just by connecting through a digital platform.

Bobby is a staff writer at Peake Media. Reach him at bobby@peakemedia.com.

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