February 01, 2007, 11:43 AM ET
Lecture-Hall Laptops Hurt Students' Grades, Study Says

Most professors can vouch for the fact that students with laptops sometimes seem a bit distracted in the lecture hall. A new study confirms that assessment — and makes the case that classroom diversions are hurting students’ ability to make sense of what their professors are saying.

The study, conducted at Winona State University, examined the behavior of students in two large psychology seminars, both held in lecture halls with wireless Internet access. Students who brought laptops to the classroom admitted that note-taking wasn’t always a high priority: Eighty-one percent said they checked their e-mail during class, 68 percent said they kept instant-messaging software open, and 25 percent confessed to playing games on their machines.

A semester’s worth of game playing and instant messaging might help students hone their Minesweeper skills, but it won’t improve their grades, the study said. Students who brought laptops to class ended up with GPA’s 5 percent lower than their computer-free classmates, according to the Winnipeg Free Press. —Brock Read