Students can study their study habits on Apple Watch

April 8, 2015  

Watch Pattern

Pattern, a mobile app developed at Purdue University to help students track their study habits, is now available as an app for the Apple Watch. (Purdue University image)
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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – With an Apple Watch you can track your daily steps, your calories and sleep. Now students at Purdue University can track their study habits, too, with the Apple Watch Pattern app.

The Pattern app, which was released in a late-2014 pilot phase for smartphones, allows students to track their study time and other academic activities and to rate how productive that time was spent. The Apple Watch version of the Pattern app has been submitted to Apple and should be available when the watch is released.

"I expect some people will be surprised by how many students end up buying Apple Watches," says Jason Fish, director of the Studio digital development group at Purdue. "The Pattern app is a good fit for it because those who have one of the watches can now more easily track their academic efforts."

In its current early stage, the Pattern app offers students basic information about their academic behaviors. It also allows instructors to see how much time students are studying for a particular class and whether they are keeping up with the materials or trying to cram in weeks worth of lectures the night before a big exam.

But that's just the beginning for the app, Fish says, as many more complex features will be delivered soon.

"This first release of the app was what is called 'minimally viable,' so many more features are coming," Fish says. "The idea is to get it into the hands of the users and see how they are using it and what can be improved. Then we move quickly to improve it. It may sound like we are holding back on the development, but in reality the users know what works best for them."

Fish notes that data about the study habits of Purdue students shows that many don't use academic resources such as study labs or instructor office hours until their grades are already suffering.

"Future versions of the app will be able to look at the academic effort the student is putting in and make suggestions for improvements based on the habits of successful students in those courses."

Adam Loeb, a freshman from Cincinnati studying computer science, says the app is useful and has potential.

"It is a really neat idea. I know that I don't always use my time as productively as possible and, when used, Pattern forces you to think critically about how you've been working," Loeb says. "It's also really neat to see what percentage of your time is spent on what tasks. The 'rule of thumb' seems to be that you should spend two hours of studying for every hour of class. Pattern has shown me that this is definitely not always true, and it gives me something to shoot for."

Loeb says that it's "really cool!" that Pattern will be available on the Apple Watch.

"I'll be getting an Apple Watch, so I'll definitely check it out," he says.

Marcy Towns, professor of chemistry and a recipient of Purdue's Murphy Award for outstanding teaching, used the Pattern app this semester in mentoring a student.

"What I loved is that it allowed me to talk knowledgeably with him about his effort and offer recommendations for how he could improve," Towns says. "As an instructor it allows me to learn a lot about what the students are doing wrong and to give them some coaching.

"Having the app on an Apple Watch will make it more automatic, more like using a wearable fitness device. Plus, it gives them another reason to play with their new watch."

Katie Vale, director of digital learning at Harvard University's T.H. Chan School of Public Health, will pilot the Pattern app this summer in a blended professional degree program that combines classroom learning and computer-delivered materials.

“I saw an advance demo of Pattern at the Educause conference last fall and was immediately struck by the possibilities it had to support learners in a blended setting," Vale says. "We're looking forward to piloting Pattern this summer with our incoming cohort in the Master of Public Heath in Epidemiology program. This is Harvard’s first-ever blended professional degree program, and we envision tools such as Pattern assisting students in managing a rigorous curriculum along with their day jobs as clinicians, researchers, policymakers, etc.”

Institutions interested in using the Pattern app can apply for trial access at

Fish says the Pattern app for the watch varies slightly from the standard app.

"The watch app is a slimmed down version of the phone and tablet applications. The goal of the watch app is to make tracking of academic activities as quick and easy as possible, whereas the phone and tablet app allows a deeper dive into the user's data," Fish says. "In future versions the watch app will be able to remind students of important information."

Fish adds that the Apple Watch opens a new frontier in the rapidly developing field of digital tools for education.

"It's an exciting time of innovation and experimentation, and we are quickly learning quite a bit about what has a real effect on student success and what so-called tools are really just toys," he says. "The smartphones opened up many new possibilities for higher education, and that's an area we are still exploring. It will be fascinating to see how educators are able to take advantage of the Apple Watch as well."

Writer:    Steve Tally, 765-494-9809,, Twitter: sciencewriter

Sources: Jason Fish, 765-496-1088, 

Marcy Towns, 765-496-1574, 

Adam Loeb: contact Steve Tally,, to arrange an interview

Katie Vale: contact Steve Tally,, to arrange an interview


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