Virtual students are especially prone to multitasking because they’re surrounded by digital distractions. When students try to multitask while studying, they often fail without realizing it. Examples of multitasking in school might look like checking their phone while attending a class or watching videos or TV while doing homework.
Psychology professor David Meyer says, “Under most conditions, the brain simply cannot do two complex tasks at the same time. It can happen only when the two tasks are both very simple and when they don’t compete with each other for the same mental resources. . . . But listening to a lecture while texting, or doing homework and being on Facebook—each of these tasks is very demanding, and each of them uses the same area of the brain, the prefrontal cortex.”
When these types of tasks compete for mental resources, one wins a student’s attention and the other loses. Students may think they’re multitasking, but they’re actually just task switching.