App rewards students for paying attention

There will always be professors who don’t allow phones in a lecture hall. While this may seem arbitrary, as there is no way he’ll be affected by his students playing Candy Crush at the back of the classroom, he may have a point. 

If students are on their phones in class, they’re missing out on valuable information they’ll need when midterms roll around.

At least, that’s what co-founder and CEO of Pocket Points Rob Richardson thought. A computer science major at California State University-Chico at the time, Richardson was sitting in the back of his lecture hall on his own phone when he looked up and realized everyone around him was doing the same.

Enter Pocket Points. The app essentially allows students to save money by not touching your phone while in class.

“There’s got to be a way to motivate students to stay off their phones,” said Pocket Points Vice President of Business Development Tony Montini about Richardson’s in-class revelation.

The app began at CSU-Chico and was downloaded by 30 percent of the student body within the first month of being available to students, according to Montini. With a team consisting of just two founders — Richardson and his partner, Mitch Gardner — the app spread quickly to other universities, including Penn State and Arizona State.

Working on a reward system, Pocket Points partners with local and online businesses to give students discounts by earning points in class. The student opens the app at the beginning of class, locks the phone and earns points for the minutes spent in class without using the phone. The longer the phone is locked, the more points are earned.

The app uses GPS technology to make sure you’re actually in class and not cheating by using the app just anywhere, according to Victoria Nunzio, the field marketing representative for Pocket Points at USF.

Now that Pocket Points has come to Tampa, students can use their points for discounts at restaurants like Are Pitas, Graffiti Junktion and Smoothie King.

In addition to local businesses, Pocket Points allows students to use their points toward discounts at online stores. Nunzio said that feature has drawn in many more.

The team gets a daily flood of positive emails, according to Montini.

“Teachers asking how to get the app set up at their school because they’ve realized what it can do and how much it can help,” Montini said.

Since its initial release, Pocket Points has expanded to over 200 universities nationwide.

As far as future plans go, Montini said Pocket Points plans to tour universities nationwide in 2016. He also said the team eventually wants to look into other social settings where people should stay more engaged.

“We’re testing it out in high schools now,” Montini said, “but it’s easier to target colleges because there are more students and businesses in college towns. The goal is to get (Pocket Points) in the hands of all students.”