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2001 Web Browsing, Mobile Computing and Academic Performance

Date: 2001
Author: Michael Grace-Martin, M.A., Geri Gay, Ph.D.
Affiliation: Cornell University
Keywords: student achievement, web-browsing


As the result of a gift by a generous corporate sponsor (Intel Corporation), we had the opportunity to supply laptop computers to students in two university courses (a Communication course and a Computer Science course) for use over a full semester and to study their use of these computers. In this study, we correlated the amount (e.g., number of times, number of minutes) a laptop computer was used by a student for Web browsing with the student's academic performance. To our knowledge, this is the first time a continuous measure of usage (instead of a discrete measure, like laptop user versus non-laptop user) has been correlated with performance in a classroom laptop study. Our intention was to evaluate some of the findings observed in previous studies--especially those regarding improved academic performance and extension of the school day. This study, then, is one of very few to correlate characteristics of a student's actual behavior related to using a laptop computer inside and outside of the classroom with their resulting individual academic performance.

Key Findings:

Answers to Research Questions:

1. Is there evidence indicating academic performances are enhanced by students taking advantage of nearly 'ubiquitous' access to mobile, networked computers?

Statistically significant positive correlations between independent variables indicating "quantity" of browsing and final course grade will tend to support enhancement of academic performance as result of ubiquitous computing.

2. Is there evidence indicating students' academic performances are enhanced by having access to the laptop computers outside of the classroom--thereby "extending the school day"?

Statistically significant positive correlations between independent variables indicating "quantity" of browsing and final course grade--for browsing recorded between classes and/or from home--will tend to support the "extension of the school day" claim.

3. Are there mediating factors affecting the valences of questions 1 and 2 that can be isolated?

Statistically significant correlations within one browsing context but not another, for students in one course but not the other, or for one gender group but not the other, will tend to implicate browsing context, gender and/or course (respectively) as significant factors mediating correlations between Web browsing and academic performance.

*Across both courses, the longer the average browsing sessions students engaged in during class the lower the final grades they tended to receive. This suggests that longer browsing sessions during class tend to be a liability for students' academic performances regardless of the nature of the students or the course.

* For the study described in this paper, we purposely avoided examining the content of the URLs students were browsing. This was both to keep the study manageable and to see if something insightful could be gleaned from observing behavioral browsing characteristics alone. Although we believe this to have been a fruitful direction, we would not reject the possibility that integrating an investigation of the content of the URLs with these data may provide even more insight.

Source Article: http://www.ifets.info/journals/4_3/grace_martin.pdf"