Online students, how many distractions can you spot in your study space at this very moment? And how many times have you asked you how to be productive and truly focus on your lectures and assignments, instead of Netflix and TikTok?
Researchers have found that students in online courses are often multitasking with non-academic matters — that refers to time spent on Facebook, browsing on Asos and scrolling Twitter timelines — more than their peers in physical classrooms.
Sampling nearly 300 Kent State University students enrolled in both online and on-campus courses, Andrew Lepp and his team found that students are 25 percent more likely to multitask in non-academic work when enrolled in online courses compared to their peers in face-to-face courses.
Students with higher multitasking tendencies (ie. those with high scores on the Polychronic-Monochronic Tendency Scale) are more likely to multitask in online classes.
Lepp told Inside Higher Ed, “Students who have positive attitudes about multitasking and prefer to multitask appear to better control this academically-disadvantageous behavior in face-to-face courses.”
The three most important steps on how to be productive:
The biggest problem with online study resources, is that it keeps you online. #distractions
— Sunny Chan (@DrWaiSun) October 19, 2014
Distractions are more common in virtual classes than in lecture halls; as an online student, you don’t need research to tell you that.
Here’s how you can resist the temptations of personal internet time while studying.
- Make gadgets work for you — Limiting screen time requires more discipline than you think, but there are apps to help with that. There are also apps to help you focus. So instead of incessantly checking your phone, reward yourself with personal internet time after powering through your to-do list.
- Optimise your routine and environment — Online students, you have all heard this a thousand times: the first step of online learning is creating your own study space. This should be a place free of distractions – away from your TV and bed, for starters. This makes it easier to establish a study routine that you can stick to. Make sure that routine includes proper meals and light stretches; how your body is feeling will directly affect how easily you get distracted.
- Adopt a buddy system — Struggling to keep yourself in check? Don’t be too hard on yourself if it’s taking longer than anticipated to adjust. Ask a coursemate or friend to be your “buddy” so you can check on each other and whip each other into shape throughout the day. Let them know what struggles you’re facing so they know how to help you avoid distractions.
Universities can learn something from Leper’s Kent State study too. For one, methods of preventing multitasking must be differentiated according to the mode of teaching.
Researchers suggested that online course developers “explore technological and pedagogical solutions aimed at keeping online learners focused on their primary task in the absence of a physically present instructor.”
Reducing distractions within virtual classrooms will not be as easy as banning gadgets. But then again, each and every online student should take personal responsibility for their digital learning experience.
So switch Netflix off — you don’t need “background noise”.