The StudentLife app wants to track stress… by monitoring everything

Computer scientists have built an app that monitors students’ wellbeing by using their phone to measure as many variables as possible, from mood to sleep quality to how sociable they are. As New Scientist reports, the aim isn’t to totally invade their privacy, but to identify and help people at risk of dropping out for non-academic reasons.

Andrew Campbell and his team from Dartmouth College recruited 48 students to trial their app StudentLife, which gathers data from smartphone sensors. The students each used it for one 10-week semester. During this time, the app logged how much the students talked on the phone, the amount of exercise they took, when they went to bed and got up, how much time they spent outside and whereabouts they went (thanks to their phones’ in-built GPS).

The researchers then cross-referenced students’ behaviour with their academic achievements and found that those who exhibited signs of depression and stress (such as sleeping too much or too little, not going very far, and having short, infrequent conversations) were struggling the most academically. Daily interviews with each of their subjects confirmed this. They also found that stress and depression increased as deadlines grew closer (but they probably didn’t need to use phone data to guess that one).

As a result of the study, two students who were on the brink of being kicked out of the Ivy League university after struggling with stress were given the chance to re-do work over the summer instead. The researchers hope that their app could be a way for tutors to be more aware of their students’ state of mind in future, and for students themselves to track their moods and ask for help when they need it. Campbell will present their findings at computing conference UbiComp in Seattle this week.

But there is still that whole ‘invasion of privacy’ thing – do we really want lecturers and God forbid, our bosses, to know how much sleep we’re getting and when we last went to the gym? Then again, if it means time with on full pay, maybe we do…

Image via Pixabay.

Want to read more? Here’s our coverage of the recent Apple announcements, including everything you need to know about Apple’s ‘phablet’, the iPhone 6 Plus, and smartwatches buying guide, or if you’re sick of Apple completely, here’s our rundown of our 14 favourite dating apps, from Tinder to eHarmony.

Diane Shipley

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