Logged In and Zoned Out

Ericka Berman

Caption: Non-academic related laptop use could have a negative effect on exam grades.

Caption: Non-academic related laptop use could have a negative effect on exam grades.

Susan M. Ravizza Ph.D. of Michigan State University et al. sought to find the relationship between Internet use and classroom performance.

In an introductory psychology class, eighty-four participants connected to the Internet using a proxy server over fifteen lectures so researchers could track Internet usage. Academic-related webpages were not counted in the same category of data collection as non-academic-related webpages. The proxy server logged all websites visited and how long students spent on a given page. Additionally, participants self-reported their Internet use on a scale of 1-5, in terms of how much Internet usage helped learning; in this way, researchers could compare self-reports to actual data and to cumulative final exam grades. A score of 1 meant that the Internet helped learning, and a score of 5 meant that the Internet disrupted learning.

During class, participants spent an average of thirty-seven minutes using their laptop for non-academic Internet use, with social media websites having the highest visits. Non-academic Internet use was a significant predictor of scores on the final cumulative exam (p < .05). On the self-report data, students’ responses averaged 3.68 on the 5-point scale. Further, students were split into 2 groups: those who rated Internet use as 3, as having no effect, and those who rated it as 4, slightly disruptive. Students who said internet use had no effect on learning had better exam grades than those who said internet use was slightly disruptive (t(68) = 2.39, p < .05).

This study suggests that non-academic Internet use is inversely correlated to cumulative final exam performance. Researchers found this to be true regardless of interest in the class, motivation, and intelligence. However, because this study did not track smartphone use, future studies could look to collect smartphone data to see what effects it has on classroom performance.



  1. S. Ravizza, M. Uitvlugt, K. Fenn, Logged in and zoned out. Psychological Science 28, 171-180 (2017). doi: 10.1177/0956797616677314
  2. Image Retrieved from: https://www.pexels.com/search/lecture/

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