How to Avoid Distractions During Online Lectures

Ginger Abbot

Feb 10, 2023
How to Avoid Distractions During Online Lectures

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If you’re taking an online course, it can be all too tempting to slack off during lectures. When you’re in the comfort of your own home and have food, drinks, and entertainment at your disposal, it’s understandable that your mind could get pulled in different directions. You may even have children or pets vying for your attention. But, your grade depends on you staying focused. Here’s how to avoid distractions during online lectures. 

Determine Your Distractions

It’s helpful to figure out what’s making you lose focus during class. Do your lectures take place when you’d normally be doing something else, such as early in the morning when you’d usually be asleep? Have you conditioned yourself to constantly check your phone? Here are some common distractions during online lectures: 

  • Pets: Maybe your dog is used to taking a walk at 1 PM every day. Now that you’re in class at that time, she starts whining for attention. 
  • Children: It can be tough for younger kids to understand boundaries, especially when it involves leaving their parents alone. 
  • Social media: The average internet user spends 147 minutes per day on social media. Checking Instagram is all too common even at school. At home, when you may be bored and lonely, the allure of social media can be simply overwhelming. 
  • Outside noises: Maybe you live in the city and can’t escape the construction noise. Or, maybe you live in the country, and your next-door neighbor has a bloodhound and a rooster. It’s distracting either way.  

How to Avoid Distractions During Online Lectures

Consider taking the following steps to help yourself focus:

1. Silence Your Cellphone

It goes without saying, but you should silence your phone before a lecture, online or not. Even if you won’t have your computer microphone on — in which case your phone could disrupt the class — it’s still distracting to hear your phone ringing, pinging, or vibrating. Set it to airplane mode, turn on Do Not Disturb, silence it, or shut it off completely before class starts. You have the entire rest of the day to check it. 

You may need to keep your phone on because you have kids in daycare or other obligations. If so, adjust the settings on your phone so only certain people can reach you. 

2. Log out of Social Media

Checking your social media accounts throughout the day can be an automatic behavior, so you may accidentally do it during a lecture. To minimize absentminded checking, log out of social media on your devices before the lecture starts. Put your phone in another room if you have to. 

3. Turn Your Camera On

If you’re in an online lecture with a group discussion component, you may have the option of turning on your webcam. Doing so could make you feel more present in the lecture. It keeps you accountable and forces you to stay at the computer for the entirety of the class. 

4. Take Notes

Writing makes it easier for many students to avoid distractions during online lectures. It also gives you notes to reference when studying for an upcoming exam. You can take notes by hand, keyboard, or even dictation — whichever works best for you.

5. Give Your Housemates a Heads-Up

Whether you have roommates, a spouse, kids, or parents sharing your space, let everyone know you need some privacy during certain hours. If you’re lucky enough to have a home office or your own bedroom, shut and lock the door. Use a Do Not Disturb sign or friendly notice posted on your door. 

If you don’t have privacy at home, consider reserving a study room at the library. Many school libraries offer this option. 

6. Prepare for the Lecture

Before your lecture starts, have a snack and a drink. Use the restroom so you won’t need to get up during class. Finish any chores or errands, like going to the store or walking your dog, so you can focus entirely on your coursework. 

7. Get Noise-Canceling Headphones

Enough said. 

Maintaining Your Focus

Taking an online class offers more freedom and flexibility than traditional classes. Although your attention might be pulled away from time to time, the best way to avoid distractions during online lectures is to tune out external noise, take care of obligations beforehand, take notes, and try to be as present as possible. Ultimately, you should act as though you’re attending class in a lecture hall or classroom. 

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