The revamped online PE program at Fossil Ridge High School (Poudre School District, Colo.) allows students to stay the course and remain active from home as COVID-19 forced schools to close their physical campuses.

“When we were shifted to distance learning, at least we had a system in place, so we simply modified it for the kids at home,” PE teacher Lisa McVicker said. “We still want students to document what they are doing based on the focus of the class for that week.”

online PE program

Students in Lisa McVicker's Adventure PE class navigate an obstacle earlier this year. With school buildings closed, students are completing their PE requirements at home through an online PE program.

Wearing IHT ZONE wrist heart rate monitors while they complete McVicker’s assignments from home, students continue to generate – and benefit from – evidence that proves they are completing their assignments. McVicker analyzes the data and supports each student with direct feedback.

“We wanted to build in accountability,” McVicker said. “Before, parents just had to sign off that the student did the required exercise and that was that. We wanted to bring a real-world application model.”

Embracing Easy-to-Use Technology to Motivate and Educate Students

Beginning with the 2018-19 school year, McVicker added IHT ZONE heart rate monitors to both her on-campus and online PE programs. After conducting her own heart rate monitor research and watching students who have their own devices, she found IHT’s monitors easier for students to use and receive vital feedback. 

The IHT Spirit System centralizes the data from each student, allowing McVicker to review the data on her computer. With data specific to each student, she can provide individualized instruction based on each student’s needs. 

“I found the IHT monitor easier for students to use and to track their progress,” she explained. “They can track the exact thing we’re looking for – a certain amount of minutes in a specific heart rate zone. When the kids wear it, that information is easy to track. There is no guessing if they are working hard or meeting that goal. It gives immediate feedback with the colors and heart rate, and then they get the summary email. Either the student is right on track or needs some guidance. The data makes it super easy to provide meaningful feedback.”

McVicker provides students who don’t have their own devices with one of the IHT ZONES she’s acquired specifically for online use at home – students operate the HRM from their mobile device through the IHT Spirit Mobile App. Lately, even students with their own devices are asking her for IHT monitors to use.

“We have seen more and more kids push to use the IHT monitors,” she said. “Those are so much better for them. We get real-life data and we’ve seen more and more kids checking out those monitors to use.”

The benefit for students, McVicker said, is consistent feedback, both from the monitor itself and from the teacher. IHT’s software provides teachers with the same heart rate data that students receive, enabling them to ensure students are on track to meeting the course’s goals and standards.

“Everyone who’s used them has had no problems getting started,” she said. “Set-up is quick and easy and they can start getting that feedback. And as the teacher, you get to provide that second layer of feedback as well.”

‘This is Real-Life’

McVicker’s online PE program helps students get an early glimpse at what fitness as an adult looks like. With PE built into the school day, students don’t have to think about when they work out. 

But today, many students work – including many in jobs that have been designated essential. Missing work to exercise isn’t an option. They ask the teacher when they are supposed to find time to work out. 

“We just have to do the best we can with what we’ve got,” McVicker explains. “Okay, this is real life. When can you fit in a workout? Students are developing workarounds and learning to be flexible. Whenever they can fit in a workout right now works, both for them and for me as a teacher.”

McVicker also encourages her students to use the heart rate monitor’s journal function to reflect on their workouts and how they feel. Students can reflect by:

  1. Replying to the session summary email they receive or
  2. When using the mobile app, selecting an emoji and enter thoughts once the session ends.

“The journal feature definitely helps students,” she said. “They get to reflect on how they feel when they work out, and most of them are being pretty honest about it. This is as close to engaging with them to talk about the social and emotional health as we can get right now.”

Expanding an Existing Online PE Program

Originally, Fossil Ridge’s online PE program catered primarily to seniors looking to recover credits needed to graduate or students with other circumstances that prevented them from taking the traditional PE class. The program eventually evolved into a summer program that saw high-achieving students take the class from home to free up time in their daily schedule for AP classes. 

“We needed to make it the best version of the class that we could,” she said. “We want to make it like the class students experience at school. They want to take PE over the summer, and that means they are doing evidence-based workouts.”

Students have the autonomy to choose their own workout. The heart rate monitor does the rest.

“We knew we wanted to embrace technology and make it so the students could pick something that works for them,” she said. “With the IHT App, it’s simple. You start it up, do your thing, stop it and there it is.”

When the pandemic hit, McVicker simply started the summer program early, opening it up to any student who wanted to participate. 

Prepared for Physical Education in 2020-21

Now, the 2020-21 school year sits on the horizon, and educators everywhere have questions as to what that looks like. While McVicker may not have those answers yet, she knows Fossil Ridge has a PE program that can keep students engaged and working out.  

“If we have to look at ways to do this when school starts again, knowing we can do this alleviates any anxiety I’ve got about how the PE program will look,” she said. “As much as I don’t love the idea of online PE, it has been a blessing that we had this process and the tools to use.”

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    Heart Rate Technology Keeps Students Active at Home, Accountable in Online PE Program
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    Heart Rate Technology Keeps Students Active at Home, Accountable in Online PE Program
    Teacher's transition to existing online PE program keeps students active, accountable at home.
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    Interactive Health Technologies, LLC
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