Exploring the Benefits and Challenges of Using Laptop Computers in Higher Education Classrooms: A Formative Analysis


  • Robin H. Kay University of Ontario Institute of Technology
  • Sharon Lauricella University of Ontario Institute of Learning and Technology




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Because of decreased prices, increased convenience, and wireless access, an increasing number of college and university students are using laptop computers in their classrooms. This recent trend has forced instructors to address the educational consequences of using these mobile devices. The purpose of the current study was to analyze and assess beneficial and challenging laptop behaviours in higher education classrooms. Both quantitative and qualitative data were collected from 177 undergraduate university students (89 males, 88 females). Key benefits observed include note-taking activities, in-class laptop-based academic tasks, collaboration, increased focus, improved organization and efficiency, and addressing special needs. Key challenges noted include other student’s distracting laptop behaviours, instant messaging, surfing the web, playing games, watching movies, and decreased focus. Nearly three-quarters of the students claimed that laptops were useful in supporting their academic experience. Twice as many benefits were reported compared to challenges. It is speculated that the integration of meaningful laptop activities is a critical determinant of benefits and challenges experienced in higher education classrooms.