Top 10 Distractions for Students Taking an Online Course
One of the biggest distractions facing students taking an online course is the internet’s ability to give us immediate access to hundreds of thousands of entertaining, interesting and often addicting websites. The temptation to click on social media sites such as Facebook or Twitter where you can read about something much more interesting than ancient history or standard uses of quotation marks is compelling. Moreover, the time spent on non-school websites can easily slip away without students being aware of how much time they actually spend on these entertainment websites. Valuable minutes that should be used to read lecture notes or complete assignments are instead wasted on constantly checking status updates, emails or YouTube comments.
If you are suffering from “internet distraction syndrome”, the internet can actually help you with your problem. Because you are not the only student experiencing serious distraction issues while taking an online course, developers have created several programs to prevent you from accessing these websites that pull you away from school work. Software such as The Web Blocker, RescueTime and Procrastination Killer prevent you from accessing social media sites, email clients and game applications in the same manner that parental blockers work. This “procrastination” software can also be programmed to keep you on track for a pre-specified amount of time so that it does not interfere with your leisure time computer use.
Nine additional distractions that can lead to students receiving low grades or even failing when taking an online course include:
- Digital devices other than computers—cell phones, iPods, iPads, video game systems, television, DVD players, etc.
- Children, family members and neighbors interrupting and demanding your attention when you need to be working on school assignments
- Worrying about finances, relationships, personal situations or someone else’s problems
- Sensitivity to external noises such as traffic, noisy children playing outside, dogs barking and a television blaring in another room in the house
- The kitchen
- Playing with pets
- Chatting online with others in your class on the course message board (about topics not related to school)
Tips for Overcoming Distractions
Taking an online course is not easy just because it is done online. Too often, students are dismayed to find the amount of studying and time required to adequately complete assignments is comparable if not more demanding to expectations of a “brick and mortar” college degree program. Numerous minor distractions in addition to the major distractions listed above markedly interfere with a student’s school work due to his or her misconceptions regarding the reality of the online learning experience. Consequently, the student falls behind, feels overwhelmed, continues to be deterred by distractions and loses any motivation he or she may have felt upon enrolling in the course. Unfortunately, a combination of all of these issues inevitably results in the student dropping out or failing the course.
Overcome distractions while taking an online course is similar to learning to defeat the tendency to procrastinate. Realizing what is distracting you is the first step in eliminating those distractions that can be eliminated, while resolving to resist distractions that cannot be removed is the other way to avoid wasting time on something other than your coursework.
Based on student surveys and research concerning effective study habits, the best way for students to transcend the intrusiveness of distractions is to have access to a room that is devoid of nothing but a desk, a computer, a lamp and any items necessary to complete online school work. However, when such a room is not available, distractions should and can be effectively dealt with by addressing each distraction separately.
Digital devices—turn them completely off. If necessary, lock them in your car until you are done studying if you are addicted to checking your messages every five minutes or give them to someone else who swears he or she will not give them back to you until you have spend at least an hour on coursework
Being interrupted by people—if possible, lock your door and hang a “Do Not Disturb—Future Computer Scientist (or whatever you are studying) At Work” sign on the outside of the door. Tell everyone in no uncertain terms that you need to study and unless it is an emergency, you would appreciate it if they did not interfere with your studying.
Worrying—while it is difficult not to worry about some things, worrying never prevented events from taking place. If severe problems are making it hard for you to succeed in taking an online course, it may not be a good time to enroll in an online school program
Outside (and inside) noise—consider purchasing a pair of noise reducing headphones that are equipped with a tiny microphone capable of producing something called “anti-noise”. In addition to preventing external noise from reaching your eardrum, these headphones provide an excellent medium for listening to audio files, lectures and music
Daydreaming—prioritizing, removing distractions that induce daydreaming and taking frequent breaks may help you avoid daydreaming many valuable minutes away that should be applied to coursework
The kitchen—humans are compulsive snackers and will snack on available food items even if they are not hungry. The huge variety of snacks provided by food manufacturing companies doesn’t help our urge to chew and crunch on delicious snacks, either. If you are distracted by the constant urge to wander into the kitchen and graze when you should be doing classwork, try keeping a drink, a bag of chips or a can of peanuts on your desk so you don’t need to get up and move away from your work.
Pets—if it is nice outside, let your pets enjoy the outdoors while you take care of online coursework. You might also ask a friend or family member to take your pets for a few hours while you complete assignments or study for a test
Chatting—make it a point to chat with classmates before starting an assignment if you need help understanding the instructions. Otherwise, don’t chat! You can always chat after finishing schoolwork.
Sleeping—getting sleepy while doing online classwork and giving in to the urge to take a nap on the couch is a common distraction and form of procrastination that students taking an online course often experience, especially if they work full-time or are shift workers. Taking frequent breaks by walking around or even jogging in place for a few minutes are good energizing activities that can help you get through a particularly long study session. If you are not sensitive to caffeine, drinking two cups of coffee about an hour before logging on to complete coursework can also keep you alert and awake long enough to finish what needs to be done.
Although taking an online course offers many advantages over taking traditional college classes, students should realize that successfully passing an online degree program requires active self-discipline, perfecting of time management skills and a strong desire to improve their ability to obtain long-term, rewarding and lucrative employment in the career field of their choice.