Most Common Distractions for Online Students
February 10th, 2011

Technology makes it possible for people to pursue education at all times, but there can be numerous distractions if you’re learning from home, the office or the road versus sitting in a traditional classroom with a professor.

Online students identified three top distractions for learning online – and how to overcome them.

1. Being unable to resist Facebook, Twitter and more!

Updating your status and clicking on photos, funny stories and links to videos and articles shared by friends can take minutes and hours away from coursework (even we’ve logged onto those sites while writing this blog, but we swear, it was for research purposes!). You can easily get lost checking out what is going on with all your friends and colleagues, says Andi Wrenn, who lives in Boston and attends Liberty University Online.

Take steps to separate from social media – not forever, but just while you need to concentrate on your classes and assignments. You could get rid of your Facebook tab if it’s just too easy for you to click on it. Consider updating your status to say you’re getting off Facebook to focus on school – your Facebook friends should hold you accountable if they see you getting back on. Also, close your e-mail and include a message that says you are away because of schoolwork.

2. Figuring out how online learning really works.

A lot of time can be eaten up just with logistics. Not all instructors and students have the same level of tech savvy or the same hardware/software, and you could be spending time trying to figure out where assignments are posted and why you’re getting server errors when you log in at different places, says Karen Southall Watts, who completed her graduate student as an online student, and who know teaches at Bellingham Technical College in Bellingham, Wash. To try to avoid some of these problems, educate yourself at the start of the course as to the ins and outs of the online class setup, and also try to give yourself extra time when logging in from another location in case any technical problems arise.

3. Being needed elsewhere.

The dog needs to go out, the kids need to be fed or taken to an activity, your boss is asking you to do another “drop everything” for a work assignment… all of these and more combine to hinder your ability to get your coursework done. One way to tackle this challenge is to make clear to the others in your life when you are a student and when you are a parent, employee, etc., even via a schedule in writing that shows when time will be devoted to school.

But also remember that it can be exhausting to sit in front of a computer for hours, Southall Watts says. So after a long period of coursework or dealing with a tough topic, you need to talk to a live person or get away from the computer and do something active away from technology. It will make you all the more productive when you log back in.

-Lori Johnston