The Impact of Computer Usage on Academic Performance: Evidence from a Randomized Trial at the United States Military Academy

New Findings, School Reform, May 2016

We present find­ings from a study that pro­hib­it­ed com­put­er devices in ran­dom­ly select­ed class­rooms of an intro­duc­to­ry eco­nom­ics course at the United States Military Academy. Average final exam scores among stu­dents assigned to class­rooms that allowed com­put­ers were 18 per­cent of a stan­dard devi­a­tion low­er than exam scores of stu­dents in class­rooms that pro­hib­it­ed com­put­ers. Through the use of two sep­a­rate treat­ment arms, we uncov­er evi­dence that this neg­a­tive effect occurs in class­rooms where lap­tops and tablets are per­mit­ted with­out restric­tion and in class­rooms where stu­dents are only per­mit­ted to use tablets that must remain flat on the desk sur­face.