13 signs your learners are distracted

13 Signs Your Students are Distracted (And How it’s Affecting Learning)

You’re there sitting on one side of the screen while your students are on the other.

You don’t see them. You don’t even know if they’re paying attention. Or, if they’re leaning. What if they’re staring at their phones instead of watching your course videos?

Distractions are quite common in conventional schools. And, online learning isn’t any different. The bigger challenge is identifying distracted students and then putting measures in place to tackle the situation. 

Though you’re miles away from your learner, there are signs you should watch out for:

13 Signs of Distracted Students

  1. Longer course completion time – students taking a considerably longer time than your estimation. For example, a student completing a 7-hour course in 14 hours.
  2. Spending too much time on a single module – students not moving ahead through a course at a predictable pace. For example, a student completing module 1, 2 on time, but spending a longer time than expected on module 3.
  3. Increased student drop off rate – students dropping out of your course than usual. 
  4. Low participation in discussions – students not responding during active discussions or taking part in course forums
  5. Missing deadlines – not submitting assignments on time, overshooting deadlines 
  6. Falling behind on coursework – students who aren’t able to cope up with subject matter as easily as other students
  7. No participation in events – students who don’t sign up for events, or stay quiet during live events (for example, don’t raise their hands to ask questions or answer the ones you’re asking)
  8. Change in learning pattern – if you notice students who show an out of the ordinary leading pattern as compared to their own behavior in the past. For example, say they completed two courses in the stipulated time, but are taking longer on their current course that has the same level of complexity. 
  9. Non-linear learning paths – students who don’t progress in a linear fashion. Have odd logon and log-off hours; randomly check other modules or courses while completing the current course
  10. Heightened Social media activity – students who might be very active on their personal social profiles but are lagging behind on their courses
  11. Not making eye contact – if you find students looking down or not looking at the screen during live video lessons 
  12. Not responding to interruptive questions – interruptive questions are a technique to gauge student attention. By asking questions while a student is watching a video or going through course material, you can test their engagement. Distracted students take a greater amount of time to respond to such questions.
  13. Your analytics will tell you – analytics help show you a student’s interaction pattern. Check their heatmaps, mouse clicks, movements, to see if they’ve been scrolling in a timely manner and paying attention. Students who falter might show random patterns.

Distractions make it difficult for students to stay motivated and negatively impact their performance.

Impact of Distraction on Learning

“The age in which we live, this non-stop distraction, is making it more impossible for the young generation to ever have the curiosity or discipline because you need to be alone to find out anything.” 

Vivienne Westwood

Until you get rid of the root causes that are leading to distracted students, you’ll keep facing problems. The result?

1. Poor learning outcomes

The immediate impact of low attention spans is a poor outcome. Students don’t focus on the course material on hand, don’t bother to ask questions, leading to below-par results. They don’t fare well on assignments or score poorly on tests beating the purpose of the learning exercise.

2. Learning goals not met

You might have set certain goals for yourself and your students. For example, at the end of the course, you’d want students to achieve a certain level of proficiency. But if students don’t pay attention and miss out on important learnings, you’ll fail to reach these goals; and so will your students.

3. Higher churn rate

No one’s aiming for this. You want your students to be successful; to come out of the learning program having gained knowledge or a new skill. An increased number of dropouts would reflect badly on your program’s capability.

4. Poor student experience

The learning experience is closely tied to engagement and inversely proportional to distractions. The more distracted a student, the poorer the experience. This could lead to low response rates and interactions on courses, bad reviews of your material, and could have a bigger negative impact on the success of your e-learning initiative. 

Tackling Distractions

Distractions are a major hurdle to the learning process.

But there are ways to overcome them  – creating bite-sized courses,  working with clean layouts designed to maintain student focus – are some of the things you can do.

If low attention spans plaguing you, it’s time to take some action.

Happy teaching.

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