Utilization of Laptop Computers in the School of Business Classroom

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

This study uses student surveys, a faculty survey and direct classroom observation to ascertain how students use laptop computers in the classroom and to identify the pedagogical techniques which greater student engagement. Students and faculty overwhelming indicate that laptop computers enhance course instruction. The results show that the benefits of laptop computers in the classroom include an increase in student spreadsheet skills and the ability to take notes electronically. Both students and faculty indicate that the disadvantages of using laptop computers include distractions offered by the web and the possibility of increased academic dishonesty. Over half of the students surveyed acknowledged using laptops to engage in activities not related to the course. Class observations show that on average approximately 15% of students are off-task at any one point in time. Pedagogy influences the effectiveness of laptops. Activities that engage students in the class help minimize the potential distraction created by access to the Internet. Lectures accompanied by PowerPoint slides led to the largest proportion of students engaged in off-task activity.

INTRODUCTION

Technology enhanced learning environments are becoming increasingly important in business education. As a result, many colleges and universities have initiated programs to promote the use of laptop computers in the classroom (Carnevale and Young, 2006). Laptop technology provides a number of benefits which enhance learning both in and out of the classroom. Integrating laptops into the classroom environment allows students to take notes faster and keep them organized. Instructors can create a "real-time" class environment by having students immediately access web resources to enhance class discussions and download course material in place of using a textbook (Cudd et al., 2003). The portability and mobility of laptop computers is leading to a new kind of classroom environment, which has both advantages and disadvantages (Effaw et al., 2004; Oppenheimer, 2003).

The educational advantages of wireless Internet are also accompanied by challenges and distractions for both instructors and students (Young, 2006). Suddenly, students have the ability to transport themselves anywhere the Internet will take them--whether or not it has anything to do with class. They can use their laptops to message friends, shop online, and surf the web. Additionally, the course instructor must learn a new set of teaching skills, and she or he must feel confident and comfortable with the laptop environment in order to be effective. Instructors are sometimes overwhelmed by this prospect and are often faced with the daunting task of effectively integrating the laptop into the day's lecture (Hall and Elliot, 2003). The goal of this research is to gain an understanding of how students use laptops in the classroom and which pedagogical techniques result in their most effective use.

EXPLORATORY SURVEY

The study began with an exploratory survey in the Fall 2005 semester for students enrolled in finance courses. All of the finance courses were offered in a tiered classroom with seating for 36 students. Each student position had a laptop computer connected to the Internet. The classroom had an instructor's console equipped with a laptop, overhead projector and multimedia devices. The student laptops were secured to the tables and could not be moved or adjusted. The instructor could not see the laptop screens without walking around the classroom, which was difficult because of the tiered seating.

At the end of the semester, a survey was given in the sections of three faculty members, which consisted of four sections of Corporate Finance and two sections of an upper-level finance course. Corporate Finance, a required course for students in the School of Business, enrolls juniors and seniors and has prerequisites of two accounting courses, two economics courses and a statistics course. …