College students limit technology use when exams loom

Eighty-five percent of students interviewed by UW researchers at four-year institutions had checked Facebook and eMail messages in the previous hour.

There was little overlap in the websites students used while studying in their campus library, although the most common sites opened on a student web browser were Facebook, a personal eMail account, and a learning management system such as Moodle.

Corinne Gregory, an author and expert on social skills, said that nearly half of the students surveyed maintained grade point averages above 3.0. Those students, she said, had already proven they were disciplined enough to avoid technology-based distractions.

“What impact is technology having on those students who aren’t pulling in B+ to A- grades?” Gregory said. “The paper seems to imply that students are handling multitasking quite well, and that technology isn’t really having much negative effect on studying. I don’t think it really reflects what’s happening in the broad base of college-age students.”

College students said they don’t eliminate Facebook from study time because they use the social site as a well-deserved break after the “cognitive drudgery” of reading and reviewing notes and class lessons.

“If I get done reading a chapter, then I get on Facebook as a reward,” one student said.

Students quoted in the UW study said they flock to the library to study in part because the surroundings—endless shelves of books they rarely use—make them feel “studious,” “contemplative,” and “productive.”

“For many students, the real allure of the library is as a place of refuge and not as a direct source of information and support,” the researchers wrote, suggesting that campus library officials reevaluate the library’s role in teaching and learning so they remain relevant as more than just a retreat from the dormitory.