Project-X: An Initiative to Increase Student Engagement through Laptops

 

Today’s digital natives enthuse educators to consider the impact of technology on learning and plan proper instruction, involving the use of laptop along with other technologies. However, implementing laptop use in classrooms without adequate support from administration, IT and faculty can have limited benefits. This article presents the results of a project conducted to identify the perceptions of students and faculty about ways in which the laptop use affects the learning environment at the Petroleum Institute, Abu Dhabi for two courses: Strategies for Team Based Engineering Problem Solving and Communication. Sixty-four freshman students, six instructors and two IT members were involved in the project. Quantitative and qualitative data were collected from students and faculty using a student survey, weekly electronic faculty-feedback logs, and electronic student journals. Data revealed that the use of laptops in the classrooms enhanced the feedback process on team-assignments in particular. Instructors felt that integration of laptops facilitated syllabus delivery and classroom management. Results also indicated challenges related to technical issues such as battery-life and Wi-Fi interference. It was further found that initial student and faculty training is essential for the project to have greater success. Results are discussed and recommendations are made for effective integration of the laptop in active learning environments.