Want higher exam grades?

Well, then quit browsing the Internet during class.


A recent study by psychology researchers at Michigan State University investigated students’ actual Internet usage during classes.


The students agreed to have their in-class browsing activity monitored .

The researchers then matched the browsing activity with the students’ self-reported browsing behavior, their overall academic readiness (think: SAT / ACT scores), their self-reported motivation and interest in the class, and their performance on the course’s final exam.

Here’s what the researchers discovered …

The students (who knew that they were being monitored) spent about 40% of their class time on “non-class-related” Internet browsing, mostly involving use of social media, e-mail, shopping and watching videos. Browsing for course-related materials (e.g. Blackboard postings or content searches) was minimal.

Key finding: non-academic use of the Internet significantly predicted students’ score on the cumulative final exam.

Those who browsed the most during class scored the worst on the final exam.

Surprise, surprise, surprise.


Students, when asked, generally reported their Internet use accurately.

Those who suspected that their browsing was hurting their academic performance were, well, right.

“The students who used the Internet most for non-academic purposes did so “even though they believe it to be harmful to their learning.”

The researchers suspect that some students may be “unable to inhibit” their browsing and suggest that laptops should only be allowed in class when their use is necessary for class activities.


Technical note:

There’s also some circular reasoning at play.

Students who are smarter and more interested in a course spend less time surfing the net during class.

Students who browse less get better exam grades.

So, which is the chicken and which is the egg?


BTW: Wonder how the results would change if the students didn’t know that their Internet behavior was being monitored?

My hunch: It wouldn’t be pretty.



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