Psychological Science Research Article


Psychological Science 2017, Vol. 28(2) 171 –180 © The Author(s) 2016 Reprints and permissions: DOI: 10.1177/0956797616677314

Research Article

Inside lecture halls at many universities, laptop computers are increasingly prevalent. Many universities now require or recommend that students bring laptops to class (e.g., Michigan State University, 2015), and instructors often post lecture slides online so that students can refer to them during class (Babb & Ross, 2009).

Although laptops may be helpful for taking notes (but see Mueller & Oppenheimer, 2014) or promoting class participation (Samson, 2010), they are also a potential source of distraction. In particular, laptops provide easy access to the Internet, and they allow students the appearance of pursuing academic goals, which is not the case when smartphones are used.

In essence, laptops might increase the likelihood of self-interruptions, which are more disruptive to the primary task than external interruptions (Mark, Gonzalez, & Harris, 2005).

Furthermore, several studies have shown that using portable devices for non-academic purposes in the classroom is related to diminished learning ( Junco, 2012; Kraushaar & Novak, 2010;

Risko, Buchanan, Medimorec, & Kingstone, 2013; Rosen, Lim, Carrier, & Cheever, 2011; Sana, Weston, & Cepeda, 2013; Wood et al., 2012) and that this holds true regardless of intellectual ability (Fried, 2008; Jacobsen & Forste, 2011; Ravizza, Hambrick, & Fenn, 2014).

Despite the intuitive and established link between nonacademic portable device use and poor classroom performance, students downplay this relationship and report little or no effect of their portable device use on learning class material (Kirschner & Karpinski, 2010).

For example, 62% of students see no problem with texting in class as long as they do not disturb other students (Tindell & Bohlander, 2012). Moreover, another study found that almost half the students believed that texting did not

677314PSSXXX10.1177/0956797616677314Ravizza et al.Internet Use and Learning research-article2016

Corresponding Author: Susan M. Ravizza, Department of Psychology, Michigan State University, 316 Physics Rd., Room 285C, East Lansing, MI 48824 E-mail:

Logged In and Zoned Out: How Laptop Internet Use Relates to Classroom Learning

Susan M. Ravizza, Mitchell G. Uitvlugt, and Kimberly M. Fenn Department of Psychology, Michigan State University, East Lansing

Abstract Laptop computers are widely prevalent in university classrooms. Although laptops are a valuable tool, they offer access to a distracting temptation: the Internet.

In the study reported here, we assessed the relationship between classroom performance and actual Internet usage for academic and non-academic purposes. Students who were enrolled in an introductory psychology course logged into a proxy server that monitored their online activity during class.

Past research relied on self-report, but the current methodology objectively measured the time, frequency, and browsing history of participants’ Internet usage. In addition, we assessed whether intelligence, motivation, and interest in course material could account for the relationship between Internet use and performance.

Our results showed that nonacademic Internet use was common among students who brought laptops to class and was inversely related to class performance. This relationship was upheld after we accounted for motivation, interest, and intelligence. Class-related Internet use was not associated with a benefit to classroom performance.

Keywords Internet, laptop, academic performance

Received 5/3/16; Revision accepted 10/12/16