Online Learning: Can You Multitask Through It?

Online Learning

If you’re a college student in a traditional or online learning environment, here’s some free advice: No matter how good you are at multitasking, don’t try to study while watching the Super Bowl.

Writing for AdWeek, Lucia Moses refers to a recent survey of tablet users, their behavior, and media consumption. According to the survey, 63% of respondents claimed to use their tablets while watching television.

Maybe you are one of the many busy students who pride themselves on their ability to multitask. And if you are an online student, combining education and technology becomes second nature. However, maybe what you’re doing isn’t really multitasking.

“That actual multitasking is cognitively impossible has been established beyond reasonable doubt.” This is according to Alan Jacobs, professor of English at Wheaton College and the author of The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction.

“In fact,” says Jacobs, “it has become clear that the people who think they are skilled multitaskers actually are worse at it than other people.”

Reading, studying, and doing homework all require a certain amount of focus and intellectual effort. But watching TV is a passive entertainment that doesn’t require any viewer participation. When you consider that many people turn on their TV and let it run as a sort of background noise while they do other things, it becomes clear that they aren’t really multitasking so much as creating a soundtrack for their home; one that they can occasionally dip into for a quick dose of visual stimulation.

In other words, you can watch TV or you can study, but trying to do both at the same time is counterproductive. In fact, combining too many forms of technology with your education could even impair your ability to learn.

Written by: Michael Mussman
Michael is a regular contributor to the Ashford University blog.

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