Smartphones can boost academic performance when used appropriately, finds study

Contrary to popular belief, researchers have found that there are some situations in which use of a phone can positively impact student outcomes

Yep, you read that right – researchers from the Aalto University School of Business have found that smartphones have the potential to boost students’ academic performance when used in a suitable context.

Conducted by Ms. Yanqing Lin, Mr Wenjie Fan, and Professors Yong Liu, Virpi Kristiina Tuunainen, and Shengli Deng, the study explored smartphone usage and how it effects educational achievement among university students.

The findings are based on insights from 10,000 participants, and have now been published in the Computers in Human Behaviour Journal.

In a turn that may seem surprising to most, the study uncovered that participating in mobile learning and browsing news apps has a positive, direct link on academic attainment. Researchers believe this is due to the use of mobile learning applications stifling the feeling of nomophobia, which is the fear of being without a mobile phone.

“Mobile learning acts as part of studying that is practical and compulsory, therefore it is not considered ‘fun’ for most people, which contrasts other apps as social media. For this reason, users are not going to be distracted from studying, or end up procrastinating,” Ms. Lin explained.

Though the university used in the study did not have an official online e-learning or mobile learning platform, the study found that students would often take charge of setting up their own class groups on social media, creating a space where they could collaborate, share learning resources, and generally exchange information free from managerial input.

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That said, the experts warn that other, non-learning mobile apps like social media are internalised and can actually trigger nomophobia.

“The more time users spend on entertainment apps relates to the level of nomophobia they experience, which in turn alters sleep habits,” said Professor Liu. “Changed sleep habits subsequently affect a student’s academic performance.”

For this reason, researchers believe the simple change of not using a smartphone before bed should alleviate the adverse effects on students’ academic performance.

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