New Findings on Student Multitasking with Mobile Devices and Student Success

U. Yeliz Eseryel, Dan Jiang, Deniz Eseryel
Journal of Information Technology Education: Innovations in Practice  •  Volume 20  •  2021  •  pp. 021-035

This paper investigates the influence of university student multitasking on their learning success, defined as students’ learning satisfaction and performance.

Most research on student multitasking finds student multitasking problematic. However, this research is generally from 2010. Yet, today’s students are known to be digital natives and they have a different, more positive, relationship with mobile technologies. Based on the old findings, most instructors ban mobile technology use during instruction, and design their online courses without regard for the mobile technology use that happens regardless of their ban. This study investigates whether today’s instructors and learning management system interface designers should take into account multitasking with mobile technologies.

A quasi-experimental design was used in this study. Data were collected from 117 students across two sections of an introductory Management Information Systems class taught by the first author. We took multiple approaches and steps to control for confounding factors and to increase the internal validity of the study. We used a control group as a comparison group, we used a pre-test, we controlled for selection bias, and we tested for demographic differences between groups.

With this paper, we explicated the relationship between multitasking and learning success. We defined learning success as learning performance and learning satisfaction. Contrary to the literature, we found that multitasking involving IT texting does not decrease students’ learning performance. An explanation of this change is the change in the student population, and the digital nativeness between 2010s and 2020 and beyond.

Our study showed that multitasking involving IT texting does not decrease students’ performance in class compared to not multitasking. Secondly, our study showed that, overall, multitasking reduced the students’ learning satisfaction despite the literature suggesting otherwise. We found that attitude towards multitasking moderated the relationship between multitasking and learning satisfaction as follows. Individuals who had a positive attitude towards multitasking had high learning satisfaction with multitasking. However, individuals who had positive attitude toward multitasking did not necessarily have higher learning performance.

We would recommend both instructors and the designers of learning management systems to take mobile multitasking into consideration while designing courses and course interfaces, rather than banning multitasking, and assuming that the students do not do it. Furthermore, we recommend including multitasking into relevant courses such as Management Information Systems courses to make students aware of their own multitasking behavior and their results.

We recommend that future studies investigate multitasking with different instruction methods, especially studies that make students aware of their multitasking behavior and its outcomes will be useful for next generations.

This paper investigates the role of mobile multitasking on learning performance. Since mobile technologies are ubiquitous and their use in multitasking is common, their use in multitasking affects societal performance.

Studies that replicate our research with larger and more diverse samples are needed. Future research could explore research-based experiential teaching methods, similar to this study.

Multitasking, undergraduate students, learning success, learning performance, learning satisfaction, quasi-experiment
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