A Decade of Distraction? How Multitasking Affects Student Outcomes

38 Pages Posted: 19 Sep 2011  

Reynol Junco

Harvard University - Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society

Shelia R. Cotten

University of Alabama at Birmingham - Department of Sociology and Social Work

Date Written: September 13, 2011

Abstract

The proliferation and ease of access to information and communication technologies (ICTs) such as Facebook, text messaging, and instant messaging has resulted in ICT users being presented with more real-time streaming data than ever before. Unfortunately, this has also resulted in individuals increasingly engaging in multitasking as an information management strategy. The purpose of this study was to examine how college students multitask with ICTs and to determine the impacts of this multitasking on their college GPA. Using web survey data from a large sample of college students at one university (N=1,839), we found that students reported spending a large amount of time using ICTs on a daily basis. Students reported frequently searching for content not related to courses, using Facebook, emailing, talking on their cell phones, and texting while doing schoolwork. Hierarchical (blocked) linear regression analyses revealed that using Facebook and texting while doing schoolwork were negatively associated with overall college GPA. Conversely, emailing was positively associated with college GPA. Engaging in Facebook use or texting while trying to complete schoolwork may tax students’ capacity for cognitive processing and preclude deeper learning, while emailing may be directly related to learning. Our research indicates that the type and purpose of ICT use matters in terms of the educational impacts of multitasking.

Keywords: oii, multitasking, ICT, Facebook, cell phones, text messaging, academic outcomes, grades, college students

Suggested Citation

Junco, Reynol and Cotten, Shelia R., A Decade of Distraction? How Multitasking Affects Student Outcomes (September 13, 2011). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1927049 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1927049

Reynol Junco (Contact Author)

Harvard University - Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society ( email )

Harvard Law School
23 Everett, 2nd Floor
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Shelia R. Cotten

University of Alabama at Birmingham - Department of Sociology and Social Work ( email )

460N Heritage Hall
1530 3rd Ave S.
Birmingham, AL 35294
United States
205-934-8678 (Phone)

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