While most students have smartphones and laptops, the problems of distractions arise.
Lack of text in the University of South Dakota student handbook regarding the use of cell phones or laptops by students during class gives USD professors full discretion.
Psychology professor Barbara Yutrzenka leaves the responsibility of learning her material in the hands of her students.
“Phone usage does not affect my ability to teach,” Yutrzenka said. “It just affects the individual’s ability to learn. They are missing out on content.”
Professors like Sandi Shumaker of the mathematics department are not as trusting.
“If I can see that they are using actual notes on their screen, they can have a computer,” professor Sandi Shumaker said. “I do not let students use their phones though.”
Although professors recommend students do not use phones during class or completely state phone usage is not allowed, the freedom smartphones and laptops provides to their users are all too tempting.
First-year Sopida Trageser said usage of phones and computers for non-class related purposes is probable amidst the masses.
“My professor for my large lecture class did say she would like our phones to be off and to not be on any social media network in fear it would distract other students,” Trageser said. “With that in mind, most students are on their phones or a social media network at some point in the class hour.”
Sophomore Samantha Thuringer said technology usage is prevalent in small and large lecture classes.
“I believe most students in big lecture classes sit on their computers and phones instead of paying attention,” Thuringer said. “But, people are sneakier in the smaller classes when getting on their phones.”
Yutrzenka, who holds large lecture classes inside the Churchill-Haines lecture halls, remains optimistic about the use of technology in the classroom.
“I have a large lecture class of 250 students and I believe they’re being respectful and not using their phones or computers for anything but the class notes,” Yutrzenka said. “I assume they are using it for their class.”
One of the reasons professors do not want students on their phones or social media networks during class is it affects the students’ chances of learning the material,, said Yutrzenka.
While trusting, Yutrzenka said any misuse of laptops or smartphones during lecture hours are a threat, and not only to the individual.
“It is also absolutely distracting to other students,” Yutrzenka said. “Anything that is not a part of the class is a distraction.”
Like the majority of professors, Yutrzenka lets her students know the course policies on computers and phones in her syllabus. The consequences are stated in this as well.
On computer usage, Yutrzenka printed in her syllabus:
“Students who are found using their laptops for any purposes not related to this class (e.g., surfing the web, playing games, checking Facebook, answering email, studying for other classes) will relinquish the right to use their laptop in this class for the remainder of the semester.”
She also has a warning for phone usage:
“Dr. Yutrzenka also reserves the right to answer any cell phone that rings during class.”
Many students said they do not agree with the professors’ consequences, and stay on their phones anyways.
“I think this is fair to an extent,” Trageser said. “The professors are trying to help you pay attention and learn, but at the same time, it is the individual’s interest and choice.”
Students also feel it is not distracting to other students.
“I do not pay attention to the other students who are on their computers,” Thuringer said. “I don’t think many people are distracted when other students are on their computers or phones.”
Though it isn’t in the student handbook, Shumaker wishes it to be changed in the upcoming years.
“I think the university should have a policy on phone usage in class for students,” Shumaker said. “It would be helpful if they put it in the handbook.”