A recent study conducted at St. Louis University suggests that the practice is wide-spread, and that second year law students are most likely to use their laptops for “off-task” purposes. According to research conducted in 2010 by Kim Morse, the associate director of writing support at SLU Law School and a doctoral candidate in education, second year law students spent 42% of their in class time involved in “off-class” Internet activities. In comparison, the figures for first year and third year students were 35% and 25%, respectively.
The study also showed that there was no apparent correlation between laptop misuse and poor grades and that students with high LSAT scores were more likely to be surfing the Internet than their lower-scoring counterparts. In addition, classes taught by the Socratic method featured higher levels of laptop misuse than those taught by other methods.
Morse’s survey included just five classes during one semester at one law school. Students in the surveyed classes were told that they were being observed for class participation, but were not told that the way in which they used their laptops was specifically monitored. Given the admittedly small sample size, generalizations based on the study should be made with caution.
Moreover, in a world where multi-tasking has become the norm, one cannot necessarily assume that a student who is looking at unrelated websites is not also paying attention to the class.