May 13, 2016 By Carl Straumsheim
When faculty members at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point took away students’ computers and tablets in an introductory economics courses, their students' grades jumped. The study of those faculty members' findings, published this month by the School Effectiveness and Inequality Initiative at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, suggests that male students and students with high grade point averages at the beginning of their college careers are most susceptible to their grades suffering from device-induced distraction.
Susan Payne Carter, Kyle Greenberg and Michael Walker, three faculty members in economics at West Point, last year separated students in the course into three sections to determine the effect Internet-connected devices have on academic performance. One section was strictly technology-free, while a second allowed students to use laptops and tablets (though professors were free to discipline “blatantly distracted” students). A third section struck a compromise, allowing students to use tablets as long as the devices lay flat on the desk so that professors could see what was on the screen. The study does not address cell phone use.