The theme of distraction in online learning seems to be popping up all over. In fact, distraction & productivity in general are hot topics in our newly resource constrained work environments. Volume has negatively impacted both work/life balance and quality lately.
Lifehacker posted this article on singletasking, the practice of doing one thing at a time. The conclusion: do one thing at a time, and you'll do more. You'll do it more accurately, too. Multitasking impacts overall output as well as quality.
Personally, I'm a big fan of check lists. But, I get interrupted frequently by co-workers who have called me the Queen of PowerPoint and a SharePoint Ninja. Flattery seems to really work on me.
As a designer of all things online and learning, I love the idea of singletasking. As a compliance learning developer, I really, really love singletasking. As a human, I see the potential and the pitfalls. The biggest risk? Sticking to singletasking. In the connected environment of online learning, we compete not just with the urge to multitask. We also compete with job and life tasks that learners may see as more important.
What can we do? Keep online learning simple, short, interactive, & compelling. If you just authored a 65 minute page turner, figure out how to cut it down, chunk it or chuck it.
We can also set clear expectations for success and attention. In longer, multi-week courses, I will give learners tips on online learning. These include ways to minimize distractions in the office or at home. My favorites are "shut down your email" and "wear a silly thinking cap so that your 3 year old knows you are studying." I like the second one the best -- it sets a great example!