5 tips to avoid multitasking and keep the attention in eLearning

At the very beginning of our adventure on this blog we have talked about digital natives and attention span, proposing some possible solutions to keep high levels of attention during training: in this article we will get back to this topic, with our 5 tips to avoid multitasking during eLearning content fruition.  



Many researches have already studied the attention span of digital natives, namely people born and raised using technology. Since nowadays we can all be somehow considered digital immigrants, it is possible to state that our way of thinking has irreversibly changed compared to ten years ago. 

We have already mentioned the study that claimed that the human attention span had dropped from 12 to 8 second between 2000 and 2015, compared to the 9 seconds attention span of goldfishes. However, rather than getting worse, researches seem to show that we are evolving towards being somehow less focused and harder to keep concentrated, because of the continuous need of instant gratification



Multitasking is often defined as the greatest scourge of our time: we are not able to keep our focus on a single activity, but on the contrary we tend to work on different tasks at the same time, undermining the effectiveness of all of them.  

The main issue, though, seems to be at the very base of the multitasking concept: according to a Stanford University study, in fact, our brain does not carry out different tasks simultaneously, but actually switches very quickly from one to another, with a consequent temporary reduction in the concentration level. We have all experienced how our smartphone or computer’s performance slows down when we open many programmes at the same time: if we think of CPU as the “brain” of our devices, it switches very quickly from one activity to another, leading to a general drop in performance

This widespread habit, then, make us carry out every task in a less effective way, which is particularly worrying when we are talking about digital training: if we do not contain the natural bent to multitasking, in fact, there is a high risk that the eLearning content is seen, read or listened to by the student, but it does not lead to actual learning



Starting from being aware that multitasking is an integral part of our way of thinking and doing things, we need to understand how to carry out instructional design and eLearning content definition in order to keep students’ attention levels as high as possible. 


The first thing to remember when developing training content, especially eLearning, is related to the duration of training sessions, namely how much time a student is required to carry out a specific task or look at a specific material. To avoid the bent to distraction, and consequently multitasking, it is better to have short content – based on the microlearning principles. 


Another important element to consider in order to avert the risk of multitasking in eLearning is linked to the type of content: materials with passive fruition, like videos or texts, can lead to distraction more easily, compared for example to asynchronous content with high interactivity, where there are continuous action requests. In addition, using engagement mechanisms such as gamification can help to keep users focused on the learning material, since they will receive continuous stimuli


Connected to the previous point, low interactivity can also undermine the effectiveness of webinars. We have mentioned many times this type of eLearning content and suggested how to make them more engaging for students, but in general it is important to remember that – in the same way as watching a very long video – follow webinars where the teacher is the only one speaking can easily lead to multitasking and distraction. As a consequence, during video lessons it is advisable to add interactive activities, such as Q&A sessions or discussions, to avoid students to lose their interest and turn to other tasks. 


Generally speaking, behind all the previous tips, an essential aspect to oppose multitasking is related to the value of learning content shared within eLearning programs. If students think that the training materials are redundant or not interesting, in fact, they will be led to be superficial and give priority to other tasks they perceive as more important or urgent. In this sense, creating adaptive programs specifically tailored to each student’s needs can be helpful: if all eLearning contents are relevant and bring value, it will be more likely that they catch and keep attention in time. 


Last but not least, we need to point out that it is very important to share learning objectives. When you start a training program, in fact, being aware of motivation behind it or the aim of learning that information or acquiring that know-how can help to improve the perceived value of contents. It is essential, then, to use the first training session – either webinar or asynchronous – to describe the program and its objectives, in order for them to be well known by everyone. Intrinsic motivation and being ready to learn are two key-principles of adult training, according to Andragogy: only when adults feel the objectives as their own they will be motivated to learn and will give their full attention to eLearning


Do you want to learn how to design an effective eLearning program that keeps high levels of attention in your students and helps you to avoid the bent to multitasking? Contact us to require a consultation with Quiddis instructional design team or sign up to our newsletter to receive updates about our training sessions for trainers!


Did you like the article? Share it!