Tune in to Focus Carolina during morning, noon and evening drive times and on the weekends to hear stories from faculty members at UNC and find out what ignites their passion for their work. Focus Carolina is an exclusive program on 97.9 The Hill WCHL, sponsored by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Dr. Jeffrey Greene with the UNC School of Education researches how students learn in digital environments. While the Internet is a valuable resource, Dr. Greene believes students need to have a plan for how to use it effectively so they can be critical thinkers and check to ensure online sources are reliable.

“One of the big challenges about learning online is that there’s so much information and so many information sources,” Dr. Greene says. “And that’s kind of a new problem for humans.

“Before this, humans had access to kind of curated sources, right? So there were teachers or there were journalists or there were adults around that would say, ‘Read these things and not those things.’ The Internet opens all that up and it’s a new challenge for us to figure out what do I pay attention to?”

Dr. Greene says that people aren’t necessarily very good at understanding how they learn. He says that while students progress through primary and secondary education, college is often a different game. Reaching students at this point and implementing effective learning tactics can be beneficial for the student’s success.

“The good news is that most students recognize that it’s helpful and like I said, people aren’t necessarily very good at understanding how they learn,” he says. “But you can learn how to learn. It’s not rocket science. It takes some practice. It takes support, it takes some time, but people can learn to be more effective learners.”

While online gaming and social media distracts people from learning, Dr. Greene says he is not an advocate of parents or adults taking technology away from students.

“I think we need to teach students how to use technology more effectively and learn how to control it.”

Listen to part one of the interview with Dr. Jeffrey Greene:

Dr. Greene admits that learning is hard and the people who can study for eight hours straight with no breaks are rare. He says that taking breaks while studying is an effective strategy.

“Try to think about something else, try to walk around and kind of let your mind wander a little bit,” he says. “Very often when we tell students to test themselves with those flashcards, we actually tell them to do that after that 10 minute break.”

One popular misconception about learning is multitasking, specifically how people think that today’s students are good at multitasking because we see them doing a bunch of things at once.

“It’s not something that humans do. Humans do one thing at a time very well consciously, so students that are working on a paper and then get a text and then go back to work on the paper, they’re not multitasking. They’re single tasking and they’re switching between tasks and every time you switch you get a little distracted.”

Dr. Greene says that UNC students are fortunate to have many learning resources on campus, including federal funding to help first-generation college students.

“Some students, for whatever reason, are lucky enough to have been exposed to good study strategies. Other students haven’t been so fortunate and it’s a real disadvantage, but the good thing is we can provide those supports to students and then they can be very, very successful.”

Listen to part two of the interview with Dr. Jeffrey Greene: