Reflections & Thoughts

Online learning in a disconnected world

My world is connected to the internet. My life is connected to my phone. My laptop and my iPad: my privacy is connected to the servers that control my information. My life is connected to the virtual world. 

According to Apple, my screen time  on my iPhone is on average 1 hour 44 minutes.  Last week I spent  3 h, 28 min in Safari – god knows what – 3 h, 12 min in WhatsApp, 1 h, 2 min  listening to Podcasts and 45 min in iMessage. If I am super positive, probably 30% of the time I used it for educational purposes. The other 70% of the time I wasted clicking here and there, trying to do something I forgot once I started using my phone and ended up remembering it once I locked it to do something else. My iphone connected to the internet becomes in an infinite distraction loop – so is any other device with internet connection –.

Since my childhood I understood technology as a tool that would allow me to grow my abilities, making my learning process faster and better. I’d stop wasting time and focus on really important stuff, leaving to technology the hectic work that requires a lot of time but not a lot of thinking. Like calculators: they offer numbers accuracy but people know how to use them to make something greater out of them – so I thought –.

Nowadays I feel my capacity to learn and my memory is failing big time. My productivity is low and I can’t manage to do much of anything unless I have a deadline for tomorrow morning. My personal projects are postponed in my eternal procrastination. Time ago I read monotasking is better than multitasking. I tried to focus on one thing at the time. I just couldn’t do it – social media is so tempting –, I started with one thing in mind to end up 2 hours later stalking a “friend” (enviously looking at his/her pictures) in Facebook or “reading” – skimming – an article that didn’t help me to finish the ONE task I first had in mind, just to feel tired and lazy afterwards 

I don’t remember when being a workaholic and multitasking became out of fashion, but in today’s century the new trend is to be mindful 24/7, live in the present moment. Breathe in, breathe out. If it does not work: keep calm & drink tequila, vodka, beer, watch TV, go out with a friend – you name it –.

Aswell, you can use a meditation app; simple: you go to the Appstore/Playstore to look for the meditation app, – that you can afford and that satisfies your needs – download it  and start using it: learn to meditate and continue the daily practice. These mindful Apps promise to increase your concentration capacity and make you feel more relaxed and happier. 

I recently discovered that if you want to focus, smart devices (phones, tables, computers & laptops)  aren’t facilitating it when connected to the internet. When we sit at our desks, in front is our beloved computer: within 20 min – if not the earliest – we start checking our social networks, “reading the news”  or checking our email. We have become click-sprinters, going from one website to another, from one App to another and in the end all these productivity apps don’t seem to work. Why? 

There are many online courses, many online materials we can access in the commodity of our house. Literally one click away! Does online learning really work?  Studies have found that face to face classes are better for people.  “Even Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, meeting shortly before Jobs’s death in 2011, agreed that, so far, computers had made surprisingly little impact on schools.” (Issacson,2010; Trealease, 2013: location No. 2942).

Online learning diminishes comprehension ability, memory skills and concentration capacity. According to Alfredo Jalife Ramhe,  GAFAT  – Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Twitter – have invested millions of  dollars in enhancing their social platforms to keep the users hooked up for longer periods of time. 

In capitalistic terms, as mentioned by the british journalist Johann Hari: the more you spend looking at your screen devices, the richer GAFAT grows – Tik Tok, YouTube, SnapChat & WhatsApp as well –. The time you are away from their platforms is money they lose. Corporations are selling their users private information; the users will receive personalized advertising in their email box, pop-up ads will appear in their favorite websites. These targeted publicity (ads) lures people into buying  products/experiences they may not want or need at all.

Online education is isolating for the most part, a good tool to utilize when it’s necessary but a bad one if we spend most of our waking hours in a virtual reality mediated by a screen. On top of that we are constantly distracted by many websites, emails and other notifications. Many of us have the daily habit of clicking to an endless linked universe that will do everything but help you to focus.

The productivity apps that you may find fantastic may not be so, probably you’d be better off without them. These apps are distracting with their notifications. Perhaps disconnecting from distracting sites, apps and stopping the phone notifications will let you focus on your work and finish your projects on time.

Maybe online learning is keeping  you from thinking deeper and learning more. Instead  of believing that you are focusing and absorbing information, the internet is hindering learning abilities:

A small study investigated how often an average American college student actually pays attention to anything, so the scientists involved put tracking software on their computers and monitored what they did in a typical day. They discovered that, on average, a student would switch tasks once every sixty-five seconds. The median amount of time they focused on any one thing was nineteen seconds. If you’re an adult and tempted to feel superior , hold off. A different study by Gloria Mark, professor of informatics at the University of California, Irvine  – who I interviewed – observed how long on average an adult working in an office stays on one task. It was three minutes. (Johann Hari, 2022, p.8)

To learn more about it, I highly recommend you to read the most recent book of Johann Hari, Stolen Focus: Why You Can’t Pay Attention. 


Hari, J. (2022). Stolen Focus: Why You Can’t Pay Attention (1st ed., Vol. 1). Bloomsbury Publishing PLC.

Trelease, J. (2013). The Read-Aloud Handbook: Seventh Edition (7th ed.). Penguin Publishing Group.

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