Active learning improves academic achievement

More technology isn’t always the answer.

by Keelia Moeller

As technological advances progress, handwritten class notes are slowly but surely losing popularity. However, students’ dependence on technology may actually decrease the degree to which they retain new information.

The introduction of new technology is a powerful trend in modern classrooms. However, technological devices can distract students, leading them to Facebook, Twitter or even a few online shopping pages during lectures.

Many students have taken to typing their lecture notes to save time. However, a 2014 study by two university scholars published in Psychological Science indicates how inefficient this new form of note-taking really is.

In one part of the study, each student was provided with a laptop and a notebook and instructed to take notes. Students who used laptops finished with a significantly greater amount of notes than their peers.

The study found that students with notebooks better retained the information because they carefully selected which information to write down. Students who wrote longhand also performed better on exams. 

Furthermore, recent evidence suggests that the typical lecture course is not as effective as a class that utilizes active learning strategies. These require students to complete in-class activities that demand knowledge of assigned readings. Being forced to prepare ahead of time yields results, especially for low-income students who often struggle in traditional classes.

Here at the University of Minnesota, students should register for active learning courses. In “flipped classes,” students complete activities in class and watch lectures at home. These courses engage students, encouraging them to fully participate.