Rewards for Staying Off Your Phone During Class

Students at two college campuses can now earn free food or discounts simply by staying off their phones during class.

According to, an app called Pocket Points, developed by a student at California State University, Chico, allows students to earn discounts at local shops and eateries by building points on an app that measures whether they check their phones during class.

Students at California Lutheran University are no strangers to checking their phones in class. In fact, some may admit doing so during class time.

According to, people check their phones 150 times a day.

Junior Ryder Christ, an employee of Media Services, said he believes Pocket Points would be a great app for all college students.

“It helps minimize the distraction to look at your phone in class with the reward of food,” Ryder said in an email interview. “I think it would be interesting to combine Pocket Points and the meal plans here on campus and acquire some bonus points in class both for commuters and residents on campus.”

The app works in such a way  that when students arrive to their course they open the app, which can detect when it’s in a campus classroom, and lock their phone.

Interim Associate Provost for Information Systems Services Zareh Marselian said he is optimistic about an app like Pocket Points because it can reduce distractions in class through reward systems.

“Bigger giveaways might get more students hooked and it could potentially be a positive for universities, helping improve engagement, retention and graduation rates,” Marselian said in an email interview. “I can see these types of apps being of greater value in public universities where class sizes are large and instructors have a tough time getting to know students. Classes are small in size at Cal Lutheran, which means faculty are more aware of class attendance and participation.”

Pocket Points measures how long students go before checking their phones. Once the phones are locked, the students can tuck their phones away knowing a reward is nearing.

Dr. Sharon Docter, professor of communication, has a different outlook on Pocket Points.

“At CLU, it would be my hope that students would attend class because we have cultivated in them a love of learning as opposed to rewarding them with a free pizza or sandwich if they attend class,” Docter said in an email interview.

Docter said she also believes students will find their educational experience more rewarding if they are intrinsically motivated to attend classes rather than attending class for an external reward.

Currently, California State University, Chico and Penn State are the only two universities supporting Pocket Points, according to

For every 20 minutes the phone stays locked, the student can earn one point.

According to, students at Penn State earning 10 points can receive a 15 percent discount off any Penn State apparel at the student bookstore, or 15 points can win students two free cookies at a local bakery.

According to, Pocket Points already has about 1,000 downloads. The app is set to launch at other colleges around the country soon.

Daniela Abravaya
Staff Writer
Published February 25th, 2015