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How the Internet Broke Homework

The digital era has made homework less effective

November 2022


Bad news: The fact that your kids can learn online … may be making them worse students.

While the digital era has opened up new avenues for learning, it’s also created some bad habits.

In fact, it turns out that the internet ... may have broken homework.

Teachers assign homework to help students retain important information because the act of recalling information helps students commit it to memory.i As a result, students with high homework scores have historically also had high test scores. But now … not so much.


Rather than answer on their own, many students now simply grab the right answer off the internet. The result: They’re remembering less.ii

One study compared a group of students who pulled answers from the internet with a group that completed their assignment without help. The study found the latter group better retained information, even if they got the answer wrong.iii

Since 2008, as it’s become easier for students to “pre-check” their answers, the number of students who do well on homework but badly on tests has increased.ix Students who looked up homework answers lost up to a full letter grade on exams.ix

Computers can complicate the learning process in the classroom, too.

Researchers found that students who took paper notes or studied off paper retained more information than those who read or took notes on a laptop.xi

This dynamic holds true outside the classroom, too.

One study found that people have a harder time retaining information they find on Google and a harder time remembering routes and maps they access on GPS.xii

So, when it comes to studying for school, it’s probably time to power down.

Save the smartphone for the truly important stuff.



  1. Teachers assign homework to increase students’ knowledge retention.
  2. Since 2008, the number of students who do well on homework but badly on tests has increased.
  3. Research has found that students who take paper notes tend to retain more information than those who take notes on laptops.


  1. "Fewer Students Are Benefiting From Doing Their Homework: An Eleven-Year Study" (Arnold L. Glass)Educational Psychology 
  2. Ibid., p. 5
  3. Ibid., p. 11
  4. Ibid., p. 1
  5. Ibid., p. 12
  6. Ibid., p. 13
  7. Ibid., p. 5 


SOUND: Shake a Tail Feather (Bryan Cumming) 
FOOTAGE: Maskot (Getty)


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