Impact of Digital Distraction on Lecture Note Taking and Student Learning

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Instructional Science






Laptop computers allow students to type lecture notes instead of relying on the traditional longhand (i.e. paper–pencil) method. The present research compared laptop and longhand note-taking methods by investigating how the quality (i.e. complete versus incomplete idea units) and quantity (i.e. total words and total idea units) of typed and handwritten notes differed when students did or did not reply to text messages during a simulated lecture. Accounting for the presence of text messaging while participants took notes situated the present study within the reality facing many students in today’s digital age. Findings indicated that a considerable proportion of the idea units captured in participants’ notes were incomplete, regardless of note-taking method or exposure to distraction during the simulated lecture. However, only the total number of complete idea units stored in student notes meaningfully predicted lecture learning. Furthermore, the presence of digital distraction was particularly disruptive to the quality and quantity of laptop users’ lecture notes relative to longhand note takers. Finally, digital distraction emerged as a more meaningful predictor of lecture learning than note-taking method. Recommendations for improving the quality of student lecture notes are discussed and avenues for future research into note-taking completeness and the interplay between digital distraction and note-taking method are proposed.


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