Researchers use an app to predict GPA based on smartphone use

Republican Presidential Debate Held at Dartmouth

What a person does on their phone call tell you a lot about them -- including their GPA. Researchers from Dartmouth College and the University of Texas at Austin have developed an app that tracks smartphone activity to compute a grade point average that's within 0.17 of a point. The software is called smartGPA and using it alongside "periodic self reports" keeps tabs on how hard a student is studying and partying -- on top of physical activity, sleep, attendance and social interactions. Members of the research team were also responsible for the StudentLife app that kept up with mental health and its effect on grades, and this goes a step further by taking into account a broader picture of daily life. "We show that there are a number of important behavioral factors automatically inferred from smartphones that significantly correlate with term and cumulative GPA," the study explains. Installing the app, which is built with cloud and machine learning algorithms, monitored a group of undergrads 24 hours a day for 10 weeks.

The findings weren't too shocking: higher performing students studied more as the term progressed, kept social interactions short in the evenings and experienced the most stress during midterms. However, by leveraging tech that keeps tabs on a student's habits, the team says its findings "open the way for novel interventions to improve academic performance." For example, an app that allows a student to check on their behavior to see if it leads to the desired GPA. If not, it'll provide advice on how to get things back on track. Perhaps that's a bit further down the road, but now that we track track fitness and more on a phone, why not academic performance?

[Image credit: Scott Eells/Bloomberg via Getty Images]