In-Class Multitasking with Smartphones and Laptops: Exploring Student Experiences and Perceptions

Liping Deng*, Yan Liu, Kelly Yee Lai Ku, Lin Lin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Although multitasking with laptops and mobile phones has become endemic on university campuses, we still don’t have adequate understanding of this phenomenon. There is especially a lack of qualitative studies offering detailed and rich description of how and why students multitask. This exploratory study provides a nuanced understanding of in-class multitasking with smartphones and laptops. The study involves sixteen students from a comprehensive university in Hong Kong in in-depth interviews. The results indicate that the university students mainly multitask with mobile phones on activities unrelated to the ongoing class. Lectures and peer presentation are reported as the activities students felt least engaged with. The study has revealed a new type of multitasking behavior, that is learning-related yet off-task. The multitasking behavior also fluctuates on an array of factors associated with motivation, classroom context, and the presence of technology.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)443-451
Number of pages9
JournalCollege Teaching
Issue number4
Early online date7 Sept 2021
Publication statusPublished - 2 Oct 2022

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Education

User-Defined Keywords

  • Distraction
  • in-class
  • laptops
  • multitasking
  • smartphones


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