Eight in 10 college students point to smartphones, tablets, and laptops as a near-constant distraction in the classroom and lecture hall.

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Nine in 10 students are opposed to policies barring mobile device use in the classroom.

Awareness of the various digital distractions pervasive throughout higher education hasn’t stopped college students from turning to their myriad devices, as the average student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UN-L) campus and five other schools admitted to using a tablet, laptop, or phone 11 times every day during class, according to a study released Oct. 23.

Barney McCoy, an associate professor of broadcasting at UN-L, conducted the study that likely confirmed what educators have long known: web-connected digital gadgets are pulling students’ attention away from lectures, and not just a few time a day.

McCoy said in a university statement that he didn’t realize how many students had their attention split between the lecture and digital distractions until he sat in the back of a classroom and saw students perusing social media sites while taking class notes.

The results of the study, he said, were hardly surprising, as mobile device usage is an ingrained part of most college students’ daily lives.

“I don’t think students necessarily think it’s problematic,” McCoy said. “They think it’s part of their lives. … It’s become automatic behavior on the part of so many people — they do it without even thinking about it.”

The study included responses from the University of Nebraska at Omaha in Nebraska, Morningside College in Iowa, the University of North Carolina, the University of Kansas, and the University of Mississippi.

Fifteen percent of student respondents said they used their mobile devices more than 30 times a day during class, for non-class related purposes.


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