College students transfer ineffective ‘paper-based’ study methods to computer-based materials, study finds

CNN reports:

Despite the prevalence of technology on campuses, a new study indicates that computers alone can’t keep students from falling into their same weak study habits from their ink-and-paper days.”Our study showed that achievement really takes off when students are prompted to use more powerful strategies when studying computer materials,” said the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Ken Kiewra, an expert in study methods and one of the authors of the study.

The research, published this week in The Journal of Educational Psychology, found that students tend to study on computers as they would with traditional texts: They mindlessly over-copy long passages verbatim, take incomplete or linear notes, build lengthy outlines that make it difficult to connect related information, and rely on memory drills like re-reading text or recopying notes.

Meanwhile, undergraduates in the study scored 29 to 63 percentage points higher on tests when they used study techniques like recording complete notes, creating comparative charts, building associations, and crafting practice questions on their screens.

The article, by Jairam & Kiewra, is available here from the Journal of Educational Psychology (free preview of abstract; subscription required to read paper).


One response to “College students transfer ineffective ‘paper-based’ study methods to computer-based materials, study finds

  1. I read with interest the article on the new principal of Burlington High School in the north section of the Boston Globe of Sunday, August 29. The first sentence, “Patrick Larkin envisions the day when all students bring to school is a laptop, iPad, or cellphone.” I wonder if students in this school of the future will ever learn the pleasure of reading a book. It seems to me that something on a computer screen is a mere shadow of a book. I also wonder what the role of the teachers will be in this school. Will they teach or just supervise students working on computers? I remember once in a math class I told the teacher that I did not understand something. He patiently explained it to me, as well as the rest of the class. I felt that I had learned something important that day. I had been unable to understand something, and now I understood it. Computers can seldom give a satisfactory explanation to “I do not understand…” I have the feeling that in the school of the future that Mr. Larkin envisions, rote learning will be alive and well, but education will be dead. I hope I am wrong.