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Student Use Of Technology In A Large Lecture

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2010 Annual Conference & Exposition


Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010



Conference Session

Engineering Technology Progress Reports: Part II

Tagged Division

Engineering Technology

Page Count


Page Numbers

15.1127.1 - 15.1127.7



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Paper Authors

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Scott Miller Virginia Tech

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Jeffrey Connor Virginia Tech

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Student Use of Technology in a Large Lecture Abstract

In the spring of 2009 a large lecture class, CEE 2814 Measurements, was observed to determine student laptop usage during lecture. This 185 student section met three times per week in a large lecture hall for 43 total classes in the semester. All students were required to own a laptop. For 26 of these lectures a graduate student sat in various locations throughout the room, on different days of the week, and recorded the student’s participation levels during the class. The delivery of the material was somewhat unusual in that a tablet computer screen was projected and served as the “blackboard”. The lectures were recorded and attendance was not required. There were no unannounced quizzes or other mechanisms to encourage attendance. At the start of the semester the instructor asked that computers be used only for appropriate purposes and that phones not be used at all. There was one reminder of this request halfway through the semester.

The purpose of this study was to observe how students interact with the lecture during class and what distractions were presented with the use of laptops. Among other conclusions, it was found that computers caused more distractions than all other distractions combined. The 34% of the students that did bring a computer to class, 86% used them for purposes other than class related. It was further found that 89% of all technological distractions were computer related, with 8% from phones and 3% from IPods or similar devices. Results suggest that laptop computers are not an overall effective tool for note taking in a large classroom environment. Laptop use during the class distracted students from lecture more often than it assisted with note taking. Other research indicates that instructors have had difficulty with students becoming distracted by laptops in large lecture halls. Unless these instructors find a way to incorporate laptops within their curriculum or provide students with an incentive to use their laptops properly, they will continue to struggle with the negative effects of laptops in the classroom.


Observing any college campus today, a person can easily determine the impact of laptops on students’ study habits. Many students take their laptops with them to all their classes and are encouraged to use them for note taking. It is safe to assume that utilization of personal computers has been fully integrated into college academia during the past fifteen years. In the mid-1990s, college universities began requiring all students to purchase laptops recognizing the potential personal computers had to increase the efficiency of an individual student’s study time. Initially, it appeared that there were positive responses to the use of laptops in the classroom. According to L.D. Fink, R.L. Kolar, and D.A. Sabatini, an experiment conducted at Oklahoma University in 1998 and 1999 for a junior level water resources course yielded favorable results for laptop usage as an aid to class participation. As described in the article, the students enrolled in this course were split into two sections, one that required the use of laptops and one that did not. The authors found that “class dynamics were consistently better in the laptop section, which is reflected in the much higher class participation score”1. Perhaps the most important conclusion

Miller, S., & Connor, J. (2010, June), Student Use Of Technology In A Large Lecture Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--15997

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