Saturday, July 9, 2016

Impact of In-class Computer Usage on Academic Performance

What is the study about?
The study compared the performance of students in classes that prohibited use of Internet-enabled laptops or tablets in a college level course with those in classes that either allowed restricted use or unrestricted use of these devices.

The study was conducted with sophomores taking introductory economics at the United States Military Academy at West Point. Some classrooms in the study allowed students unrestricted use of laptops or tablets. Other classrooms allowed students to use tablets, but required students to leave the tablets face-up on their desks during class. The comparison classrooms had no access to Internet-enabled devices during class.

Classrooms were randomly assigned to conditions, and students were randomly assigned to classrooms. There were a total of 726 students in the study. Of these, 248 were in the unrestricted use group, 208 were in the restricted use group, and 270 were in the “no technology” comparison group.

What did the study report?
The study authors reported that, overall, students allowed both unrestricted and restricted use of Internet-enabled devices had lower final exam scores than students who did not have access to Internet-enabled devices during class. These differences were statistically significant.

How does the WWC rate this study?
The authors used a cluster randomized controlled trial to examine the impact of Internet-enabled technology use on student academic performance. Nearly all of the students who were randomized to conditions completed the final exam, and therefore this study had low attrition. As such, the study findings for academic achievement outcomes meet WWC evidence standards without reservations.

Carter, S. P., Greenberg, K., & Walker, M. (2016). The impact of computer usage on academic performance: Evidence from a randomized trial at the United States Military Academy (SEII Discussion Paper #2016.02). Cambridge, MA: School Effectiveness & Inequality Initiative.

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