Skip to main content

Texting While Studying: New Study from McGraw-Hill Reveals That Technology Can Be Students' Best Friend and Worst Enemy

The Impact of Technology on College Student Study Habits survey reveals tech can be both beneficial and detrimental to studying and productivity.

NEW YORK, Nov. 20, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- From Facebook newsfeeds and text messages to frat parties and other extracurriculars, the number of study distractions today is unlimited, so how do college students focus on their studies to enhance their performance in class? New survey results illustrate how technology is improving the study process for many students but warn that students aren't always using mobile devices to their advantage.

The third party study ("The Impact of Technology on College Student Study Habits") commissioned by McGraw-Hill reveals that online activities and the use of mobile devices can either help, or in some instances, hurt the study process. Nearly 40 percent of students reported that anything online (primarily the internet and social media networks) is the biggest distraction when studying, and more than 50 percent of students said they used computers, tablets and phones for non-study activities while they were studying, such as texting friends.

But the good news is that students who take advantage of the latest study technologies, such as adaptive learning programs, report feeling more productive and less stressed. More than 50 percent of students felt "better prepared for classes" and had "improved studying efficiency" as a result of study technology, while 45 percent of students experienced reduced stress related to studying and exams.

More than 500 college students participated in the survey, which sought to better understand students' study habits and the influence of learning technologies on studying. Other highlights include:

  • Students are using smartphones to study more than they're using tablets.
    Surprisingly, 36 percent of students say they use smartphones for studying, when compared to 22 percent of students who opt for a tablet device or a computer.

  • Digital study tools are saving students time.
    67 percent of students said that digital study tools such as adaptive learning programs save them time—up to five or more hours a week—when studying.

  • Sleep is a necessary ingredient for academic success, and students using digital study tools get more of it.
    50 percent of students who regularly use study technology say that they use time they save studying to catch up on sleep – an important benefit, given that 64 percent of respondents said that it takes more than 7 hours of sleep per night to be an effective student.

  • Writing papers is the biggest source of academic stress for students.
    34 percent of students said writing a major paper was the most stressful, over 22 percent who claimed that taking a test was a more stress-inducing activity, indicating that the commonly known "test anxiety" may be lower than expected.

  • When it comes to laptops, most college students are using PCs.
    When asked which brands of electronic devices they owned, an overwhelming 71 percent of students said they owned a PC laptop, far outweighing the 20 percent of Mac laptop owners.

"Studying effectively – and with the right type of technology – is one of the best ways to ensure that students succeed in class," said Brian Kibby, president of McGraw-Hill Higher Education. "But focus is the key. When used properly, study technologies such as our LearnSmart adaptive study tool can help students pinpoint their studying efforts with great precision, prompting them to review only the material they have not yet mastered and moving beyond the concepts they know cold. This instant feedback helps students arrive to class better prepared and engaged and leads to higher grades and exam scores."

The students who participated in the survey are users of LearnSmart™, a McGraw-Hill adaptive study tool. LearnSmart seeks to personalize learning by using algorithmic technology to continually assess students' knowledge, skills and confidence levels and then designs targeted study paths based on the resulting data to bolster students' understanding in the areas where they need to improve the most. The platform helps students study more effectively, increase their retention of a particular subject and achieve better grades while allowing professors to use data analysis to tailor instruction and reduce administrative time. On average, LearnSmart helps C students become B students and B students become A students. More than 2 million students have used the LearnSmart platform, in which more than 1.6 billion questions have been answered to date. In this survey, approximately two thirds of students reported experiencing positive benefits from using study technologies such as LearnSmart.

"Technology has made such a positive impact on the way I study. My study time has become shorter and the retention is greater. I truly enjoy the way it adapts to me and the accessibility," said Ingrid Zapata, a student at Texas A&M University.

McGraw Hill
McGraw Hill is a leading global education company that partners with millions of educators, learners and professionals around the world. Recognizing their diverse needs, we build trusted content, flexible tools and powerful digital platforms to help them achieve success on their own terms. Through our commitment to equity, accessibility and inclusion, we foster a culture of belonging that respects and reflects the diversity of the communities, learners and educators we serve. McGraw Hill has over 40 offices across North America, Asia, Australia, Europe, the Middle East and South America, and makes its learning solutions for PreK–12, higher education, professionals and others available in more than 80 languages. Visit us at or find us on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, or Twitter.

Tyler Reed
McGraw Hill
(914) 512-4853