Learning While Pedaling At Fordham

Students inside Gabelli Business School’s very first “Burn to Learn” course are blindfolded as part of a class exercise on nonverbal communication


But how productive can this actually be? Haber says you’d be surprised. First of all, there’s the absence of mobile devices and laptops.

“Because students are working out,” she says, “they don’t have phones and computers. They’re looking at me all the time, they’re focused, and I think the engagement is higher.”

Megan Frazier, a junior management student at Gabelli says she can attest to this. “To be honest, I am definitely a culprit of my phone being a big distraction for me. Even if I’m not looking at it, I get distracted much easier,” Frazier shares. “For this class, I leave my phone in the locker room. It allows us to do something else that’s distracting us. You’re doing something that distracts you, but not enough that you can’t listen.”

There’s more. Haber says she would remind the naysayers that her students are millennials who are accustomed to multitasking. “Multitasking is a lot easier for them than someone who is older,” she says.

“I don’t see why you can’t retain info while you’re moving,” Haber continues. “When you go to the gym you see people watching TV or reading. You have business people closing deals while playing golf. Research shows that while you’re moving, you can still learn and intake information. However, it cannot be very intense physical exertion. Low to moderate level is the optimal way to retain knowledge and learn.”

A Gabelli student presents in front of classmates during spin class

Finally, there’s an emotional component that Haber says makes her approach effective. “Studies show when you are engaged in some emotional experience you remember that a lot longer,” she says. “By having the intense intervals, I hope to embed emotional experiences that they’ll associate with the content we’re learning.”

Says Frazier, “My attention span in this class is kind of incredible. I don’t take notes. In other courses, I’m the first person that would walk out of a class and forget everything that was said, but something about the pedaling and actual exercise in this class helps me to retain the information better.”

Frazier, who immediately signed up for Haber’s course when she learned there was a way she could fit in exercising on top of school work, being a resident assistant, and working a full-time job, says family and friends often express their disbelief. “They say to me, ‘There’s no way that’s real.’ But it is and it’s definitely just as much work as any other class,” she says. “I think when I initially went in, I was looking at it more as a time to workout than a time to learn. Subconsciously, I wasn’t taking it as seriously as I should have been, but I very quickly figured out this was a very real class.”

Finally, Haber backs up the effectiveness of fitness integration with her very own research. In 2016, she published a study of 700 students where she and two co-authors learned that incorporating physical education into an existing course can be beneficial to students. “Studies have shown that exercise has a tremendous impact on our well-being, but it also has an effect on cognitive thinking,” said Haber in a Fordham News article.


Higher-ups at Fordham and the business school have applauded Haber for her willingness to introduce innovative and fresh ideas inside the classroom. Donna Rapaccioli, dean of the Gabelli School, said in the Fordham News article that the course is enriching the academic experience for the school’s students.

“It means a great deal to me when faculty members go out of their way to come up with a fresh case study, an unconventional classroom activity, or a truly original lesson on a time-honored topic — and I believe our students appreciate it, too,” she said.

If you’re curious how grading works, students are assessed on their cognitive input to the class and it’s not held against them if they’re not feeling well or choose not to participate in cycling. But coming in and hanging out in the back of the class is definitely not an option. “Right now they’re required to do some form of physical activity, but I don’t take points off if they don’t feel well and just want to sit,” says Haber. “I don’t take away from their grades because they don’t want to work out that particular day. I’m just grading them cognitively and on some sort of movement.”

In the fall, Haber will offer another course, Research for Consulting, that will incorporate the same fitness integrated learning techniques. Having taken one already, Frazier says her recommendations are more activity intervals and an emphasis on spin safety. “Just so students know how a spin class is supposed to work on top of the learning aspect,” she says. That, and she’d recommend the course be offered later in the day as opposed to 8:30 in the morning.

Still, she says the spin class has been one of the best she’s taken at Fordham. “I think it’s a class everyone should take,” she says. “Material-wise, it’s a very applicable course. The whole point is how we’re received by others and how we can shape that. I’m more self-aware now and my self-monitoring has gone up. What’s been most surprising is it’s such a relevant course even though it’s really cool that we’re spinning.”


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