Laptop Use Guidelines

The University of Texas at El Paso Guidelines for Laptop Use in Classrooms

The University of Texas at El Paso is committed to the use of technology to improve learning. The faculty member is responsible for the learning environment in the classroom, laboratory, or studio, and has the right to specify which tools may or may not be used in a classroom, laboratory, or studio as well as how and when a tool might be used.

Recommendations for Faculty:

It is wise for a faculty member to include a statement in the course syllabus about managing the learning conditions in the classroom, with specific preferences, requirements and restrictions.  However, the lack of such a statement does not mean that the faculty member gives up the right to control the learning environment.

Establishing guidelines for the use of wireless laptops and other devices (e.g., cell phones, PDAs, MP3/digital music players, etc.) in class minimizes disruptions and miscommunication.  Providing students with guidelines will ensure they know what is acceptable use, and sets up expectations for the use of such devices.

Below are sample guidelines that could be added to a course syllabus.

Laptops

If you do not permit laptop use during class:
Use of laptops during class is not permitted. The necessity of classroom interaction in this course negates the usefulness of laptops as a note-taking device. The use of your laptop during class can also prove distracting to your classmates, so please refrain from using your laptop during class. (Include what action will be taken if this guideline is not followed.)
 
If you do permit laptop use during class:
  • Charge your laptop batteries fully before coming to class.
  • Set your laptop volume control to mute or off before coming to class.
  • Keep your laptop closed during presentations and other specific in-class activities.
  • Do not engage in unauthorized communication or entertainment (web surfing, instant messaging, chat room chatting, DVD viewing, music playing, game playing, etc.) during class unless it is part of the lesson. (Include what action will be taken if this guideline is not followed.)
Additional guidelines when laptop use is required for the class:
  • Bring your laptop to every class session, unless told otherwise.
  • Bring your laptop in sleep or hibernate mode to avoid longer boot-up time.
  • Do not open your laptop until told to do so.
  • Do not shut down your laptop unless the instructor asks you to do so.
Some ideas to make sure your students keep on track when using laptops in class
  • Provide blank slides in your presentations that students need to fill in after class.
  • Give interactive exercises in class that require Internet search, compilation of facts, group assessment of information, or other active outcomes.
  • Ask the students to submit notes they have taken during class.
  • Let the students know that nonacademic activity during class hours is disruptive to the class and everyone around them. For example: the constant rattle of the keyboard while IMing can be very distracting.
Cell Phones
  • Set your phone to mute or silent mode before coming to class.
  • Do not answer incoming calls or make outgoing calls except in an emergency.
  • Do not use text messaging or web browser features while in class.
Other Wireless Devises (PDAs, MP3 players, SmartPhones etc.)
  • Shut off the device or set it to mute before coming to class.
  • Do not use text messaging or web browser features while in class.

Recommendations for Students

The University of Texas at El Paso supports the use of technology for learning.  We also understand that the use of laptops can be an asset to some students and help them in their note-taking and learning. That being said, we also believe that students should have diverse learning experiences and be adaptable to different styles of learning and note-taking.
Students are expected to follow the rules and guidelines established by instructors for each class that they are taking, and to make a conscious effort to adapt to learning environments that may vary across instructors, classrooms, and disciplines.

Acknowledgement: these guidelines are based on and borrow heavily from The Ohio State University Classroom Guidelines (available at: http://telr.osu.edu/mobilelearning/teaching/guidelines.htm) and from existing guidelines at Northern Michigan University and the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities.