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Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Ohio State Prof Bans Laptops, Sees Grades Rise

NoInside Higher Ed, Professor Bans Laptops, Sees Grades Rise:

Trevon Logan, a professor of economics at Ohio State, posted on Twitter this week that he had banned all electronics from his courses, with positive results.

“I thought I would get much more pushback on this from students, and I didn’t think student outcomes would be so significant,” Logan said in a Twitter thread. “Given these results, I’m very encouraged to continue with the policy.”

Logan, who enacted the ban this semester, reported that student performance had improved significantly in midterms compared with previous years. “Results were significant — average scores were about half a standard deviation higher than previous offerings,” he said.

The most surprising finding, said Logan, was that students seemed to like the policy. About 25 percent mentioned the policy in their open-ended course evaluations, “and everyone who talked about it enthusiastically endorsed it.”

Logan said the students reported that the policy had helped them to maintain focus and to take better notes, kept them engaged, and increased their enjoyment of the course. “I did not expect this at all,” said Logan.

Logan said that he was inspired to try out the technology ban by a New York Times op-ed by Susan Dynarski, professor of public policy, education and economics at the University of Michigan. “I was curious to see what would happen,” he said.

In an email, Dynarski said that following publication of her article, she was contacted by many professors considering a ban. Dynarski advised that anyone considering such a ban should do so “armed with the best evidence, creating policies that fit the content and culture of their classes.” She added, “Professor Logan did exactly this, and with great success.”

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What made the difference in student performance in my courses has been a steady stream of graded and non-graded exercises and response-required questions during the semester. Without electronic devices, I would be compelled to return to tree-using, clutter-generating, disposal-challenging paper. The key is to get students to use their electronics in real time, so that they are focused away from distracting uses of the devices, just as in the pre-digital classroom, it was necessary to keep students from passing notes, doing crossword puzzles, and sleeping. It's a challenge of teaching very different from simply knowing the material of the course being taught.

Posted by: James Edward Maule | May 15, 2018 3:17:35 PM