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How Does It Have an effect on eLearning?

Why multitasking is changing the way our brains learn

It rarely happens that someone is without a smartphone in their hand or pocket. With the advent of new technologies, it’s no wonder more and more people are using smart devices to access a wide variety of information and keep in touch with others. The way we do our daily chores has become easier with technology, but are there any negative effects technology can have on our attention spans? The spread of technology is forcing us to study how we use it to do everyday tasks. Since technology can be distracting, it’s important to think about our ability to multitask in our fast-paced society. Young generations have grown up with the latest devices, and most children these days know how to use an iPhone efficiently.

How can this affect their learning, especially in hybrid educational settings? Many schools still face uncertainty about the COVID-19 pandemic, and some are incorporating virtual education to adapt to these changes. Today more than ever, students rely on technology for academic success.

Learn more about technology-based multitasking and how current students can switch between assignments here.

Multitasking with technology: is it possible?

There is some controversy surrounding our ability to multitask. Some believe it is possible while others believe that our brain can only focus on one task at a time. Based on cognitive science research, doing two tasks at the same time results in inferior work as opposed to doing one thing at a time. While multitasking is possible, the impact on the quality of work can be negatively impacted.

Studies have shown that our learning is negatively affected [1] when we process information while being distracted by external stimuli, such as devices we use every day. If students try to study or work on assignments while playing on their phones at the same time, they may not retain important information.

Other research suggests this [2] that listening to music while doing other chores can help increase your alertness. It’s one thing to play tunes in the background, but how can someone do more important tasks like making a FaceTime call and doing homework at the same time?

The impact of technology on eLearning

In 2019, Kent State professors surveyed students [3] who recently took an online college course instead of an in-person classroom. The results they found weren’t too surprising. The study showed that those who participated in eLearning scenarios were more likely to use other devices to multitask than students who learned using traditional methods. Of the students surveyed, those who preferred multitasking did so much more often than others.

One of the main reasons for this is that students have to meet expectations in class when they are with a professor. Once someone moves on to online learning, those requirements go away. The students now have to regulate their behavior themselves [4] and better manage the time they spend on their devices. For young students who lack behavioral maturity, the idea of ​​self-regulation can be challenging. Children are particularly prone to feeling the negative effects of overusing technology to multitask. Without self-governing, it can be difficult to get tasks done and produce high quality academic work.

Limit distractions in an eLearning environment

Here are 3 ways to limit distractions [5] when participating in virtual education.

1. Create a distraction-free environment

The environment in which you work can have a major impact on concentration [6] They are. If your desk is cluttered or you have items to play with, try removing them. You will find that a minimalist setup means good for you and helps you focus better on the task at hand.

2. Block access to distracting websites

Some websites are designed to block you from accessing certain websites [7], mainly social media platforms. Use these online resources if you spend too much time surfing the Internet. Some schools have network settings that restrict access, but if yours doesn’t, consider using a browser extension or something similar to restrict distracting websites.

3. Take enough breaks

Spending time on distracting activities can increase your productivity. Try doing things that keep you off the screen, like reading a book, having a snack, or having a conversation with someone around the house. This makes it easier to refocus and get back to work.

These methods will help you focus on doing meaningful work instead of dealing with distracting stimuli.

The verdict on multitasking and eLearning

There is evidence that younger people are more likely to multitask [8] than older populations. For eLearner, it is important to limit distractions and stick to task in order to achieve academic success. The judges are not sure yet whether or not multitasking is a myth, but focusing on one thing at a time will allow students to produce high quality work.


[1] How technology-based multitasking affects learning

[2] Keep your brain young with music

[3] Multitasking is increasing in online courses compared to face-to-face events

[4] Traditional Learning Vs. eLearning: Which Is Right For You?

[5] Staying Focused During Distance Learning: How To Avoid Distractions Online

[6] 5 ways to increase productivity with the right workplace design

[7] 8 website blockers for study, productivity, and focus

[8] Have you rewired technology and multitasking the way students learn?

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