Journal of Computing in Higher Education

, Volume 15, Issue 1, pp 46-64

First online:

The laptop and the lecture: The effects of multitasking in learning environments

  • Helene HembrookeAffiliated withHuman Computer Interaction Laboratory, Cornell University Email author 
  • , Geri GayAffiliated withHuman Computer Interaction Laboratory, Cornell University

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THE EFFECTS OF MULTITASKING IN THE CLASSROOM were investigated in students in an upper level Communications course. Two groups of students heard the same exact lecture and tested immediately following the lecture. One group of students was allowed to use their laptops to engage in browsing, search, and/or social computing behaviors during the lecture. Students in the second condition were asked to keep their laptops closed for the duration of the lecture. Students in the open laptop condition suffered decrements on traditional measures of memory for lecture content. A second experiment replicated the results of the first. Data were further analyzed by “browsing style.” Results are discussed from Lang’s Limited Process Capacity model in an attempt to better understand the mechanisms involved in the decrement.


multitasking divided attention technology education limited capacity model