Surfing the Web in class? Bad idea

Jun 17, 2014
College students' exam scores drop when they surf the web in class, suggests a study by Michigan State University researchers. Credit: Michigan State University

Even the smartest college students suffer academically when they use the Internet in class for non-academic purposes, finds new research by Michigan State University scholars.

The study, funded by the National Science Foundation, speaks to typical lecture-hall culture in which professors compete for students' attention with laptops and smartphones.

"Students of all should be responsible for not letting themselves be distracted by use of the Internet," said Susan Ravizza, associate professor of psychology and lead investigator on the study.

Ravizza and colleagues studied non-academic Internet use in an introductory psychology class at MSU with 500 students. The working theory: Heavy Internet users with lower intellectual abilities – determined by ACT scores – would perform worse on exams. Past research suggests smarter people are better at multitasking and filtering out distractions.

But surprisingly, that wasn't the case. All students, regardless of intellectual ability, had lower exam scores the more they used the Internet for non-academic purposes such as reading the news, sending emails and posting Facebook updates.

Ravizza said that might be because Internet use is a different type of multitasking, in that it can be so engaging.

The study also showed students discounted the effects of Internet use on academic performance, reinforcing past findings that have poor awareness of how their smartphones and laptops affect learning.

Ravizza said it would be nearly impossible to attempt to ban smartphones or other electronic devices from lecture halls. "What would you do, have hundreds of people put their cell phones in a pile and pick them up after class?" Such a ban might also be a safety issue, since cell phones have become a primary source of receiving emergency messages.

The study appears in the online version of the journal Computers & Education. Researchers Zach Hambrick and Kimberly Fenn, both from MSU's Department of Psychology, were co-authors.

Explore further: @millennials wary of @twitter, #MSU study finds

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Obama pushes plan for fast Internet in US schools

Jun 06, 2013

President Barack Obama says he wants 99 percent of American students connected to super-fast Internet within five years. He's directing federal regulators to use an existing program to equip schools with ...

Recommended for you

Perthites wanted for study on the Aussie lingo

6 hours ago

We all know that Australians speak English differently from the way it's spoken in the UK or the US, and many of us are aware that Perth people have a slightly different version of the language from, say, Melbournians - but ...

P90X? Why consumers choose high-effort products

23 hours ago

Stuck in traffic? On hold for what seems like an eternity? Consumers often face situations that undermine their feelings of control. According to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research, when a person's sense of con ...

User comments : 0