Everyone’s a winner? Betting on grades

Good grades? You bet

There has been some recent interest in a new service provided by a company called Ultrinsic which allows students to bet on the grades they will achieve. If you get the grade, you win. If you don’t, you lose.

Ultrinsic is a web-based college platform that provides incentives to students for academic achievement. Ultrinsic exclusively dedicates itself to motivating students to improve their grades.

To participate in Ultrinsic, all a student does is log into their account at the beginning of each semester and choose the course they are registered for.

Based on the student’s academic history, and the amount they choose to invest in their ability to reach that target grade, a cash reward will be calculated for the student. Therefore, any student can participate, no matter what end of the academic spectrum they fall into.

When the semester is over, the student sends in their official transcript and Ultrinsic will verify their win and credit their account with the winnings.

The student will have completed a semester of college, achieved the highest possible grades, and received a cash bonus. Can’t think of many better ways to conclude a semester than that!

Ultrinsic incentives are beneficial because they motivate students to succeed in school. Notwithstanding if the student won the incentive or not, if the student tried harder and improved their academic standings even slightly, the experience was well worth it.

Interesting. And from the Huffington post we have this quote from the originator:

CEO Steven Wolf insists this is not online gambling, which is technically illegal in the United States, because wagers with Ultrinsic involve skill. “The students have 100 percent control over it, over how they do. Other people’s stuff you bet on – your own stuff you invest in,” Wolf says. “Everything’s true about it, I’m just trying to say that the underlying concept is a little bit more than just making a bet – it’s actually an incentive.

How reassuring that this is, technically, not gambling. However it is, despite the pitch, primarily a vehicle for making money out of students. If betting on grades was the best way to improve student achievement then I suspect many universities would be using it as a matter of course.

Moreover, looking at the detail of the system there do seem to be some major security issues in the system for students and universities. In order to sign up you have to allow access to your official university student records. Do institutions really want third parties inspecting student data to determine whether or not to pay out on grades?

(Thanks to Paul Kennedy, Information Services at the University of Nottingham, for the suggestion.)

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