Physically present yet mentally absent

Skrevet af Peter Holdt ChristensenFelix Kasperek, translation - Foto: Jørn Albertus - 13. marts 2014 - 17:030 kommentarer
Model photo: When students are checking news, social media and texting during classes, it doesn’t just affect what they gain, but also what their fellow students gain.

It happens in buses, in meetings, on the street and in class. People are present, but still unavailable. It’s the pull of the online life – emails have to checked along with news and social media. But this behavior is harmful to the teaching efforts at CBS.

When students spend their time online on things unrelated to their classes, it harms the teaching efforts. That’s the result of a new study, recently published in the journal Management Science

The study shows that students of schools that don’t limit access to the internet generally don’t perform as well as students of schools where access to the internet is blocked. The question of whether CBS should limit or completely block access to the internet remains.

Jens Tofteskov, head consultant at CBS and leader of the adjunct program thinks that’s taking it a step too far. He supervises lots of teachers and therefore knows that the problem of students using the internet for non-relevant things during class is a pressing issue.

Facebook and online news, interrupted by text messages
For example, he recently observed a lecture where the student seated in front of him spent the lecture on Facebook and various online news outlets, only interrupted by checking his phone and sending text messages.

Every once in a while, he’d disturb the students seated next to him by showing things on his screen, and when small discussions were held, the students seated next to him had to discuss over him because he didn’t participate in them. The problem isn’t just the student not participating in what’s being taught – it’s also that he disturbs his fellow students.

Jens Tofteskov is convinced that most of the students’ use of the internet during classes is irrelevant to what’s being taught, and that it’s especially in the bachelor’s programs that the students tend to disappear into the online world, even though they’re present in the classroom. The problem is worse in the larger lectures, where the space for the individual is seen as smaller and it therefore becomes easier to escape into your own little online universe.

The problem – according to Jens Tofteskov – is first and foremost that our understanding of what learning really is, is skewed. Many believe that they can learn something just by being present – and get on and off as they please. But listening isn’t the cause of learning – dialogue is. But students who spend their time online during classes have entered into a different kind of dialogue – one where they blur the lines between the social from Facebook and the academic from the teachings.

The solution, Jens Tofteskov insists, isn’t shutting down access to the internet, but rather address the problem verbally. It doesn’t just affect the student, it affects other students and the lecturers.

It should therefore be part of the culture that nobody leaves the lecture, physically or mentally. Additionally, the internet should be integrated in classes as much as possible. The university’s methods of teaching should change to match new circumstances and the internet can be used to raise the quality of the lectures, which the collaborative tool CBSWrite is an example of.

Written sources:
• Rodrigo Belo, Pedro Ferreira & Rahul Telang (2014). Broadband in School: Impact in Student Performance. Management Science, vol. 60 (2), 265-282.
• Jeff Jørgensen (2014). ”Pas på ’hold kæft og lyt’ kultur”. DJØF Bladet (3), side 28-31.