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Opinions Mellow on Social-Media Blackout at Harrisburg U.

Harrisburg University of Science and Technology made headlines in September when it announced that it would block the use of social media on the campus network for five days.

Three months after the experiment, a post-mortem by the university says that many students and professors who initially disapproved of being forced to unplug for a week seemed to moderate their opinions once their connections had been restored. Furthermore, according to surveys and focus groups conducted by the university, many students said that during the so-called blackout they found lectures more interesting, enjoyed greater health and concentration, and devoted more time to their homework.

One student told the university’s provost, Eric D. Darr, “that he had to actually talk to his professor during the blackout,” the report notes. 

The university surveyed students and faculty members on the first day of the blackout and again the week after it had concluded. The focus-group sessions were conducted during the middle of the blackout, and other data were collected via email and one-on-one interviews.  A quarter of the students and 40 percent of Harrisburg’s faculty and staff members responded to the surveys.

Among students who responded to the survey on the first day of the blackout, 5 percent strongly disapproved of it,  32 percent disapproved, 40 percent were neutral, and 23 percent approved.

By the week after that, feelings had mellowed, with 16 percent still disapproving, 42 percent being neutral, and 42 percent approving.

Among other findings about students during the blackout, 33 percent of those responding reported feeling less stressed, 25 percent enjoyed better concentration, 23 percent found lectures more interesting, and 6 percent reported eating better and exercising more.

Finally, 44 percent of students and 76 percent of professors reported that the blackout had taught them something, such as the strengths and weakness of Facebook and the value of face-to-face communications.

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