Note Taking

Longhand vs Laptop

Kraushaar, J.A., Novak, D.C. (2010), "Examining the Affects of Student Multitasking with Laptops During the Lecture," Journal of Information Systems Education, 21/2, 241-251.

This paper examines undergraduate student use of laptop computers during a lecture-style class that includes substantial problem-solving activities and graphic-based content. The study includes both a self-reported use component collected from student surveys as well as a monitored use component collected via activity monitoring "spyware" installed on student laptops. We categorize multitasking activities into productive (course-related) versus distractive (non course-related) tasks. Quantifiable measures of software multitasking behavior are introduced to measure the frequency of student multitasking, the duration of student multitasking, and the extent to which students engage in distractive versus productive tasks. We find that students engage in substantial multitasking behavior with their laptops and have non course-related software applications open and active about 42% of the time. There is a statistically significant inverse relationship between the ratio of distractive versus productive multitasking behavior during lectures and academic performance. We also observe that students under state the frequency of email and instant messaging (IM) use in the classroom when self-reporting on their laptop usage.

Mueller, P.A., Oppenheimer, D.M. (2014), "The Pen is Mightier Than the Keyboard: Advantages of Longhand over Laptop Note Taking," Psychological Science, 25/6, 1159-1168. [link]

Taking notes on laptops rather than in longhand is increasingly common. Many researchers have suggested that laptop note taking is less effective than longhand note taking for learning. Prior studies have primarily focused on students' capacity for multitasking and distraction when using laptops. The present research suggests that even when laptops are used solely to take notes, they may still be impairing learning because their use results in shallower processing. In three studies, we found that students who took notes on laptops performed worse on conceptual questions than students who took notes longhand. We show that whereas taking more notes can be beneficial, laptop note takers' tendency to transcribe lectures verbatim rather than processing information and reframing it in their own words is detrimental to learning.

Payne Carter, S., 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 Working Paper #2016.02. [link]

We present findings from a study that prohibited computer devices in randomly selected classrooms of an introductory economics course at the United States Military Academy. Average final exam scores among students assigned to classrooms that allowed computers were 18 percent of a standard deviation lower than exam scores of students in classrooms that prohibited computers. Through the use of two separate treatment arms, we uncover evidence that this negative effect occurs in classrooms where laptops and tablets are permitted without restriction and in classrooms where students are only permitted to use tablets that must remain flat on the desk surface.

Last Updated: August 26, 2016