Students cannot multi-task using a mobile phone while they're trying to study, research has revealed.
A study of 145 US undergraduates suggests that the distraction caused by mobile phones can affect a student's academic performance. Researchers concluded that students who "abstained" from mobile use were better able to recall information than those who were sending and receiving messages during their studies.
The study, entitled Mobile Phones in the Classroom: Examining the Effects of Texting, Twitter, and Message Content on Student Learning, tracked the responses and results of students watching a lecture on a video, and then taking notes and answering questions, while facing a series of interruptions on their internet-connected mobile phones.
One part of the study had students being asked "irrelevant" questions about their social life, another involved sending them links and questions relevant to the lecture content. Students also watched the lecture without interruptions.
Afterward, they were tested via multiple choice questions to see how much information they had retained - and, out of that, how the presence of online distractions had affected their ability to retain and process information. However, although the study concluded that the use of mobile phones definitely produced lower results, students who were sent relevant material were affected less negatively than those whose messages had a more social focus.
"Perhaps one of the biggest challenges instructors face in the 21st Century college classroom is the struggle of retaining student interest and engagement while students remain connected to the outside world through their mobile devices," say the researchers, Jeffrey Kuznekoff, Stevie Munz and Scott Titsworth.
As the debate in the UK continues over whether mobile devices should be incorporated into lessons in order to boost relevancy and engagement, or banned altogether to ensure focus on lesson material, these results could be influential.
A study of a similar nature, conducted by the London School of Economics in four English cities, found that banning mobile phones produced a 6% increase in marks in schools.
"It is a common occurrence to observe students who are physically present, yet mentally preoccupied by non-course-related material on their mobile devices," said the US researchers, who eventually concluded that it was the lowest-achieving students who were most at risk of succumbing to the distraction of mobile phones.