As those who have just graduated high school begin the fall migration to college, the one thing most have on their list of must have’s is a laptop. For most students, the flexibility that laptops afford them allows for free movement and a constant connection to resources needed throughout their day while attending classes, or simply when some well-earned downtime is needed.

There is little argument that next to towels, laundry supplies and other items needed in the transition to living on their own, the laptop helps to enhance the experience that college students receive as it provides access to online courses, gives them the tool needed to execute research and communicate with friends and family. That communication is important at the beginning of this new journey as homesickness overtakes the jubilant feelings of leaving home, many for the first time.

Most universities and colleges allow laptops in the lecture halls as it allows students to take notes, record lectures for future reference and also to view `lecture materials online such as slides or videos. However, studies have shown that the practice of laptops being allowed may be a mistake.

Research suggests Laptops do not enhance learning

Recent research results from the Michigan State University suggest laptops are not enhancing the process of learning in classrooms, and actually suggests students would learn at a higher level if they were left in the dorm room. The problem with the laptop is it gives the impression that learning is being enhanced or is more engaging while in class, however, it has been shown that many students use it to access online content more focused towards social media, and that takes away from their ability to focus on the course material. The laptop is a distraction that is self-inflicted and that comes at a high cost as studies showed that almost a third of all students with laptops in the classroom are zoned out and it is leading to reduced grades and productivity.

The results of the study have led to insightful information relating to laptop use in a classroom. It showed that 40% of the time those accessing the internet while in a lecture hall are doing so for non-academic purposes such as reading the news, checking email, chatting with friends, accessing social media sites and even shopping. That use is evident by students’ scores during final exams, especially with those that used laptops for non-academic use.

The reality is, is that social media sites are addictive and many who favour them focus their energies on keeping up with social media posts, following others and chatting. It shows that the attachment they have to those media sources and technology, in general, inhibits their abilities to focus on classroom studies, and ultimately, their future. Combine this with smartphone use and texting, it is surprising those struggling with this are able to learn anything.

What is evidently clear is that internet use in the classroom is not giving off the benefits that most thought it would, and in fact is doing the opposite. Internet time that should be spent on accessing course materials is instead spent surfing the web, and while many will use their laptops to take notes, the study showed that taking notes by hand is a far more effective way to reinforce the lessons learned during lectures, and that is what university administrators will have to consider in the coming semesters ahead. Whether that means limiting access through blocking of social media sites, e-commerce sites and others known to create diversions such as Youtube, is unknown but something that requires serious consideration to ensure the integrity of learning.

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account_box Gavin Miles