Computers alone will not help students from falling into their same weak study habits, despite the transition to technology on campuses from the ink-and-paper days.
"Our study showed that achievement really takes off when students are prompted to use more powerful strategies when studying computer materials," Ken Kiewra of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, an expert in study methods and one of the authors of the study said.
The research found that students tend to study on computers as they would with traditional texts: They mindlessly over-copy long passages verbatim, take incomplete or linear notes, build lengthy outlines that make it difficult to connect related information, and rely on memory drills like re-reading text or recopying notes.
The study also discovered that undergraduates in the study scored 29 to 63 percentage points higher on tests when they used study techniques like recording complete notes, creating comparative charts, building associations, and crafting practice questions on their screens.
Kiewra, a professor of educational psychology's cure for this problem is called the method SOAR: Selecting key lesson ideas, organizing information with comparative charts and illustrations, associating ideas to create meaningful connections, and regulating learning through practice. It complements how the brain processes information, he said.
"Learning occurs best when important information is selected from less important ideas, when selected information is organized graphically, when associations are built among ideas and when understanding is regulated through self-testing," Kiewra said.
"Teachers need to help students dispel crippling studying myths such as highlighting, outlining and rehearsal, and instead teach them strategies that help them succeed," he added.
The research was published in The Journal of Educational Psychology.