focus in online lectures

Staying Focused in Online Lectures 

Return to the Main Page

Watching lectures online from home presents some challenges to staying focused, but it also provides some unique opportunities for learning.  

Remove distractions from your environment 

Remove whatever distractions you can from your immediate environment. This might mean putting your phone away out of reach, positioning your laptop to minimize visual distractions, and maximizing your screen or closing out other things on your computer. Use headphones to block out noise.  

Take notes 

Taking notes is a great way to engage more of your attention in a lecture. Although you may be able to go back and re-watch recorded lectures, taking notes requires you to process the information more deeply in order to record the key ideas, and this will deepen your learning and improve your retention of the content. If you struggle with note-taking, Cornell Note Taking Method offers a helpful format to begin organizing your notes.

If you notice you are getting lost and confused by the content of the lecture, attempt to continue taking notes to keep yourself engaged and figure out what you are missing. Keep a list of key words and concepts that you can ask about in office hours or go back and review and research. By picking out what you can, you will stay engaged and focused until you are better able to follow along.

 Ask and answer questions 

Look for ways to make the lecture interactive for yourself. Asking questions will help you clarify the information for yourself (and your classmates!) and engage with what you are learning. Use the chat if it’s not appropriate to ask the question out loud. Even if your lecture is pre-recorded, write down questions that you can ask later in office hours, in email, or on discussion boards.  

Similarly, if the professor poses questions during class, try to answer them, whether you answer out loud or quietly to yourself. If the lecture is pre-recorded, you can hit pause while you try to work out the answer. Responding to questions will help you check your level of understanding and will also help you learn the material and make it your own.

Fidget intentionally 

While multi-tasking has negative effects on learning, some people do find that fidgeting helps them stay focused and retain information. Fidgeting can be anything that engages some of the senses that are not needed for your primary task – like doodling while listening, walking while having a conversation, or listening to music while writing. One of the great things about online lectures is that it is much easier to fidget without distracting others. 

If you are someone who finds that some movement or stimulation helps you stay focused, identify and practice strategies that are least likely to distract you or others. For example, if you like to do something with your hands, you may find that playing with putty is helpful but something like knitting might require too much thinking. Monitor your attention so you can recognize when your fidgeting is helpful and when it is getting in the way of your learning.  

Can millennials pay attention to classwork while texting, tweeting and being on Facebook