Expanded App Helps Open More UGA Online PE courses

The number of physical education courses available online this summer amid the COVID-19 outbreak has more than doubled with the help of a serverless PE app. The app allows remote students to give physical education instructors fitness data with just one click from anywhere in the world.

Students can efficiently participate in PE course requirements remotely with a Fitbit and a program developed by Kinesiology Professor, Ilse Mason and UGA Online. Originally used in two PE courses, the PE app was scaled up in March 2020 to enable 84 UGA physical education courses to finish the semester online and later to expand online PE options for students this summer.

In partnership with Mason, instructional designer, James Castle and student programmer, Chuma Atunzu, built a server-less application that runs on Amazon Web Services (AWS). It’s integrated into Fitbit and eLC to make data uploading seamless and easy. The program monitors students’ heart rates remotely using wearable fitness devices. This evolved into the first iteration of UGA’s virtual “Fitness for Life: Walking” course in 2013. The app was later scaled up with the help of another UGA Online student programmer, Kinsey Poland.

James Castle, UGA Online Assistant Director, said the Fitbit monitors student heart rates to ensure they are engaging in intentional exercise. The data collected by Fitbit is then synced with the app on eLC for the class. With a single click, students can sync their Fitbit with the PE app throughout the semester.

Mason’s innovative approach to online PE has also led her to develop over 21 open educational resources for UGA's basic physical education courses. Her OER physical education textbooks can be accessed by faculty for use in online or campus courses on UGA Online’s OER site.

Castle said the original creation of the app was for off-campus students embarked on internships, studying abroad or pursuing distance learning. Now the app is helping UGA increase the number of online PE courses available to students so that they can still complete graduation requirements during the pandemic. 

“The app will help students focus and report on executing intentional exercise for this course from almost anywhere in the world,” Castle said.