Managing in-lecture media use: the feasibility and value of a split-class policy

Abstract

High levels of digital media use have become a feature of university lectures. While certainly capable of supporting learning outcomes, studies indicate that, when media use is off-task, it presents as a disruption, distracting both users and those around them from academic tasks. In this study an exploratory, mixed-methods assessment of a media use policy for a semester-long course is presented. This policy divided the lecture theatre into two sections, one for those who wished to use digital devices and one for those who did not. Such a policy empowered students to leverage the value of media, if desired, while affording those who wished not to use media, or be disrupted by their peers’ use of media, a degree of protection from distracting cues. Findings indicate that those who consistently selected the same side performed better than those who moved from side to side. Two post-course focus groups revealed that, while having some limitations, the policy was well received by the participants and heightened their awareness of the possible distractions of off-task media use, enabling them to identify and maintain a strategy for their in-lecture attentional allocation and behaviour.

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Fig. 1

Notes

  1. 1.

    The university is ranked inside the top 400 on the 2017/2018 Times Higher Education World University Rankings (Times Higher Education 2017) and has a student population of 31,639.

  2. 2.

    Two participants were international exchange students and were not assigned to a faculty or program.

  3. 3.

    In the relevant grading system, a grade of 50 is required to achieve a pass and a grade of 75 represents a distinction.

  4. 4.

    In addition to the five media use categories (device only, device high, non-device high, non-device only, movers), the table presents three more general categories (Device, No Device and Movers).

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Appendix: In-lecture media use policy

Appendix: In-lecture media use policy

We acknowledge that students have different approaches to their learning experience in class. Part of that learning experience is the use of digital devices such as tablets, phones and laptops. For this reason, we will adopt a policy where we split the class into two sections: device and no-device. To implement this we will be following a basic set of rules for the duration of the course. These are as follows:

  1. 1.

    For every lecture the venue will be split in two sections—one for device users, and one for those who wish not to use devices. The border between these sections will be the aisle which divides the venue. When facing the front of the venue, the seating on the right of the aisle will form the “device section”, while the seating on the left of the aisle will form the “no-device section”.

  2. 2.

    When seated in the no-device section you are not allowed to use any form of digital device during the lecture. It should be left in your bag, or placed out of sight.

  3. 3.

    When seated in the device section you may use any digital device you choose as you see fit, but you are encouraged to use it for purposes that relate to the lecture.

  4. 4.

    At the outset of each lecture you may choose to sit in either section. You do not have to sit in the same section throughout the course, but you may not move between sections during a lecture.

  5. 5.

    Where you decide to sit during lectures will not influence any aspect of your assessment in this course.

  6. 6.

    To learn more about the effects and value of this policy, the lecturer will keep track of students’ seating decisions by circulating different class attendance registers for the different sections.

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Parry, D.A., le Roux, D.B. & Cornelissen, L.A. Managing in-lecture media use: the feasibility and value of a split-class policy. J Comput High Educ 32, 261–281 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12528-019-09232-z

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Keywords

  • In-lecture media use
  • Technology in the classroom
  • Technology and learning
  • BYOD policy
  • Higher education