Laptop Ban Survey Results

In an earlier post I mentioned a poll by UCLA law prof Eugene Volokh about the laptop ban he had put into place in his criminal law class. It turns out Queen’s own Kim Nossal had banned laptops from POLS 110 this year. POLS 110 is our introductory politics class. So we did a quick survey of the students in POLS 110 to see what their views about the pros and cons of the policy were, compared to their other courses, using Volokh’s questions. The results were very interesting. 308 of the 650 students in POLS-110 responded. The answers to the questions all ranged from 1 (strongly negative) to 5 (strongly postive). I have added the 1’s and 2’s to compare them to the 4’s and 5’s, leaving out the threes:

 

 

 

Negative
(% “1” or “2”)

Positive
(% “4” or “5”)

What effect has the no-laptop policy had on your concentration in class?

10

63

What effect has the no-laptop policy had on your finding the class time interesting?

17

47

What effect has the no-laptop policy had on your learning the material ?  

19

52

What effect has the no-laptop policy had on the usefulness of your notes for studying?

36

39

What effect has the no-laptop policy had on your overall enjoyment of the course?

16

46

 

The survey also asked students to report their grade on the midyear exam (anonymously, of course, with option to decline). The general trend was for those who had done better on the mid year exam to like the policy relatively more, and for those who had done worse to like it relatively less. The effect was not that strong, but there did seem to be a bit of a divide between those above 70 and those below 70.

On the whole, then, the poll suggests that students in POLS 110 generally came to view the laptop ban as a good thing, but that a significant proportion had concerns about its impact on the usefulness of notes for studying. Even here there were more positive views than negative views, and, unlike Volokh’s criminal law class, POLS 110 did not have an official note-take tasked with taking and sharing notes with fellow students. This concern about note-taking leads me to think that some provision of course notes along with a laptop ban might be the best policy (although of course provision of notes has incentive effects, even for good students, when many other courses provide no notes, and time is scarce).

The survey also allowed students to add their own comments. I will make a separate post summarizing these comments, since they speak to the question of the fairness of such bans. However, I can’t resist mentioning this comment:

“laptops – you type faster, but you end up on facebook”

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