University of Chicago Law School eliminates Internet access in some classrooms

The University of Chicago Law School has removed Internet access in most classrooms in order to ensure the value of the classroom experience.

With the implementation of wireless Internet access in Law School classrooms came better opportunities for students, who typically carry laptop computers, to be online during class-a common practice at institutions across the country, said Saul Levmore, Dean of the Law School.

"As soon as we discovered that we had the capacity turn off Internet access during class time, we felt that we ought to move in that direction. Our goal is to provide the best legal educational experience in the country, with students and faculty focused on the exchange of ideas in a thorough, engaging manner," said Levmore, who noted that many students have expressed support of the decision to remove wireless access in classrooms, including second-year Law School student Peter Rock Ternes.

"What makes our Law School is our faculty," Ternes said. "I think it makes sense to encourage focusing on them and on the classroom discussions."

Levmore noted that students may overestimate their ability to multi-task during class and that some students have expressed distraction due to their peers' use of computers during class time.

"When a student visits my office, neither the student nor I would dream of surfing the web or e-mailing while communicating with one another," Levmore said. "That is the level of attention and engagement we should expect in the classroom. Our overarching goal is to have a terrific and interesting classroom experience-that is too important to allow diversions."

Some professors have already established no-computer rules during class, but since many students prefer to use laptops for note-taking, Levmore did not want to ban computers altogether.

In a recent letter to Law School alumni, Levmore wrote, "We need to think of Internet business as inappropriate in the classroom, much as everyone recognizes the need to shut off cell phones and to refrain from ostentatious newspaper reading in class or at business meetings or at Thanksgiving dinner."