Results of Student Survey About My No-Laptop-in-Class Experiment

are in this memo I wrote to my colleagues (with pie charts). Summary:

What effect did the no-laptop policy have on Strongly negativeSlightly negativeNeutralSlightly positiveStrongly positive
... your concentration in class?2%8%19%40%31%
... your finding the class time interesting?0%6%42%29%23%
... your learning the material?4%19%41%19%17%
... the usefulness of your notes for studying?19%33%21%12%15%
... your overall enjoyment of the course?0%12%34%29%25%

With this in mind, let me offer a few suggestions to my fellow professors:

(1) If you think a no-laptop policy might help, experiment with it. I’ve noted above some reasons why my experience might not be generalizable from the sexy first-semester Criminal Law class. But if some of us get and report more data in other classes, all of us will get a better perspective.

(2) If you want to try a no-laptop policy, tell students up front about the generally positive reaction my students have reported. This should make them more open to the experiment, and at least decrease any immediate flak you might get from the students. No need to start the semester by making your students resentful.

(3) Warn students in the syllabus about the policy, and briefly explain that it’s an experiment from which you’re trying to learn, for the benefit of future students. My sense is that this will help students feel open to the policy, and will help deflect skepticism about whether the policy will work: I’m not sure whether it will work myself, you can tell them — that’s why I’m trying this as an experiment, though I also have some tentative feedback from others that leads me to think it will be a successful experiment.

(4) For the second- and third-year classes, note the policy in the class description, so that students won’t be surprised — or, if they will be surprised, you can politely convey to them that the surprise was their fault.

(5) If you do try such a policy, please conduct a survey after the end of the course, follow up with the students at least once to get a decent response rate, and share the results with the rest of us.