A survey of college students in Iowa and four other states finds them more distracted in class than in years past due to smart phones and tablets. Barney McCoy, a journalism professor at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, says the poll found the typical college student plays with their digital device 11 times a day and of those times, they’re checking text messages 86-percent of the time. “Websurfing was 38%,” McCoy says, while 67-percent were emailing and 66-percent were doing social networking. Eight-percent admitted to playing games on their phones in class.
The survey found 80-percent of students surveyed admitted their use of smart phones, tablets and laptops interferes with their learning. McCoy says he was surprised by one response as to how digital devices were being used while lectures were underway. “This is a generational issue, checking the time, 79%,” McCoy says. “I didn’t think about that until I realized a lot of my students don’t wear watches. They look at their smart phones to check the time.”
Ninety-percent of students surveyed admitted they weren’t paying attention in class because of texting or emailing. The study found students who were distracted often missed instructions and more than one-fourth said they lost grade points because of their digital habits. Still, McCoy says, students refuse to part with their gadgets. “They expect to be connected at all times, including in the classroom,” he says. “They want to be able to use these devices to check their email or to do a text message if they feel like what’s taking place in the classroom might be boring them.”
In recent years, McCoy noticed more students were looking at their cell phones than their text books, so he undertook the multi-state study. With more than eight in ten students texting, he says, that’s clearly the biggest trouble spot. “We’re talking about conversations that are coming from beyond the walls of these classrooms now and they demand that you reply,” McCoy says. “They’re really conversations that are taking place, instead of just the distraction of being bored and maybe reading the newspaper instead of listening to what the instructor is talking about.”
Because they’re conversations, he says digital devices prove to be a bigger distraction than anything else. Nearly 800 students were surveyed at: Morningside College in Sioux City, Iowa; the University of Nebraska at Lincoln; the University of Nebraska at Omaha; the University of North Carolina; the University of Kansas and the University of Mississippi.