Colleges and Seminaries are reeling everywhere this morning from shocking new research showing (are you sitting down professors?) that students muti-task on their laptops during their lectures!

Among the academic-ego-shattering conclusions are:

  • College students used their laptops for frequent multitasking during classes, generating, on average, more than 65 new screen windows per lecture, 62% of which were unrelated to the courses they were taking,
  • Students have non course-related software applications open and active about 42% of the time.
  • Students who allocate more cognitive resources to bringing up non-course-related material on their computers show lower academic performance.
  • Instant messaging seems “especially virulent” as a distraction

And to top it all off:

  • Students understate the frequency of email and instant messaging use in the classroom when self-reporting on their laptop use.

Well, I can hardly believe it myself. The researchers obviously did not come to Puritan Reformed Seminary.

But for the sake of my now-depressed academic colleagues everywhere, can I ask if anyone has any solutions to this? Just so that I can pass them on.

  • JonathanDHunt

    Yes, there is a simple solution. No electronic devices allowed!!

  • Steve

    Two solutions: (1) end grade-inflation and the entitlement approach to education and (2) make sure that your lectures are… interesting! On the first point, students that do not pay attention will fail. Students that are able to keep e-mail open during lectures and still can still pass the course in accord with strict and appropriate standards, well, deserve to pass. Students that do not should fail and be failed with gusto!On the latter point, work to make the lectures a meaningful learning event, i.e., do not just regurgitate what can be read in the text(s). Profs and lecturers need to earn and hold attention through their material and presentation. In my opinion, too often the students’ interest and attention is presumed, which can make for frustrated lecturers and boring lectures.I am not very concerned, personally, as it does not seem that this is much different than students who for generations (centuries?) sat through lectures staring out the window… now, he just stares out into the internet.

  • Esther

    As a student, I could have told you this long ago. If you sit at the back of the lecture hall, you would notice 80% of people using laptops are not just taking notes, and about half of those are not taking notes at all! I won’t claim that I’m never guilty of checking my email or other websites while I’m in class, but I have found a trend for myself. When the professor is not interesting and keeps saying things that are not relevant to the course, I tend to go online more. However, when the teacher is focused on the subject at hand and actually seems interested in the topic, it’s MUCH easier to not go online at all. Another reason I go online during class is just because of the garbage that some professors spew off. I’m at a secular university studying the arts and sometimes I just distract myself online so that I don’t have to listen to the swearing etc. that the professor is “teaching”.

  • Ian

    When I was teaching I came across many people / books that blamed misbehavior on various pedagogical techniques (or lack thereof) – lack of differentiation, not interesting enough, too lecture-like etc etc etc… Now, I wouldn’t for a minute deny that instructors should strive to do all these things and that they are behavior related, but I always felt that that missed the point. Misbehavior is never acceptable, even if the lesson excels in monotony and dullness. After spending hours preparing lessons I felt it was only courtesy that I would have the students full and undivided attention. IMO, the duties required in the 5th commandment demand that when we are being taught, we listen. Well, that doesn’t really offer a solution, but it feels good to get that off my chest! I guess what I am saying is that I don’t think the solution to the problem should be looked for, in the first place, in the instructor. Perhaps instructors could walk around the room a little from time to time (obviously that depends on the make-up of the room), not as a deliberate spot check, but at least that would keep the infractors on their toes!

  • Richard

    Its true. Its true. While the VAST majority of this behavior is unhelpful, there are instances in which it can be helpful. I would routinely chat with friends in class on gmail or ichat and we would discuss what was being discussed by the prof and other classmates between ourselves. Our actions, however, still flew in the face of the “technology statement” in the syllabus.