Helping Online Learners Assess Potential Distractions

student being distracted by a tablet computer
Online Learning
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You can help reduce distractions so students can stay focused on your presentations. However, a unique set of potential distractions awaits the online learner.

Despite their best efforts to concentrate fully during a class session, online learners may face temptations that are not within the immediate reach of a student taking an on-site course. In such cases, an everyday item (such as a half-finished novel or a pile of laundry) can waylay every intention they had for devoting their full attention to their studies. Thus, if you are teaching an online course, you may find it beneficial to alert your class to the distractions that these seemingly benign items may cause.

In the Instructor’s Manual for his text, Plugged In: Succeeding as an Online Learner, Joel English offers the following activity, which raises learners’ awareness of the distractions in their study space:

Sitting at the space where you usually log in to complete work, look 360 degrees around the room and name each item that could be a distraction for you that are in the room right now. Examples may include a television, a cell phone, a video game, an open door, another person, a stereo, or anything else that is likely to produce noise or interruptions to your concentration, memory, and creativity. List all of the items you can identify and discuss options you could consider to reduce distractions. (p. 25)

Reference: English, Joel A. Instructor’s Manual for Plugged In: Succeeding as an Online Learner. 2014. Boston, MA: Wadsworth, Cengage.

Resource: There are some great apps that can help students to focus on your work: 4 of the best anti-distraction apps for deep work