Emily Burrill, a professor in the women’s and gender studies department, said she had a hard time deciding whether or not to ban laptops in her own classes and didn’t make a final decision until a few days before the semester started.
“The reason I decided to ban them is that the literature in cognitive science is pretty clear — students who take notes in lecture on laptops have a harder time retaining that information and then perform successfully on exams than students who take notes by hand,” Burrill said.
Burrill said students today are not as inclined to take notes by hand.
“If you have that many people on laptops sitting that close together, it can be very distracting and it’s difficult to resist the distraction bug where we have our laptops open and we want to open other windows … it’s very difficult to resist that urge,” she said.
Eduardo Douglas, a professor in the art history department, said he’s most concerned with the student’s classroom experience.
“The one thing that I would take into consideration and might convince me to ban laptops in class would be if students came to me and said that they found them disturbing for one reason or another,” he said.
Douglas said he thinks it should be up to the individual professor what is best for their classroom.
“Students are adults and I don’t want to be in the position of being their nanny, but if you’re not paying attention, you’re not going to do so well, and that’s up to you,” he said.
He said engaging students in smaller classrooms is hard when they’re all looking down and typing.
“But for a large lecture class, there are any number of things that can spare one the boredom of the lecture,” Douglas said.
Tiffany Bailey, director of UNC Accessibility Resources and Service, said if a student has been approved for accommodations, faculty are very understanding about the student using their laptop in class, even if the professor has issued a ban. Bailey said if there are any issues at all, they work with professors to find an alternative solution.
Junior Neecole Bostick said she is glad some professors have banned laptops. She said she doesn’t use laptops in class and thinks banning them will help students focus.
Sophomore Olive Fadale said in language classes she’s had, the lessons are mostly taught using a book, and in those classes she also didn’t use a laptop.
“In other classes, I’ve had professors institute bans from the start but they sometimes don’t really enforce these and people still use them,” she said. “And I think then some professors realize how essential laptops are.”
Music professor Allen Anderson said professors and students both have a responsibility in maintaining classroom engagement.
“The other aspect is that if the professor can’t hold the attention of the students, maybe that’s something the professor needs to work on,” he said. “Part of our business is to get the point across but also to do it in a way that keeps people interested … and people try different things to keep the students engaged.”