Date posted: 31/05/2022

How to get the best experience from online learning

While it is vital to allow yourself the best possible environment and conditions when it comes to online study, it can still be a challenge to stay focused amid interruptions in the workplace or home office.

Online learning taps into a world of leading speakers, timely information and convenience. But for some people, the online medium can leave them wanting.

Starting can seem like half the battle, but the real challenge is staying focused amid interruptions in the workplace or home office.

Imagine, you sit down at your desk, coffee at the ready, about to start the next module, then it happens. It starts off with one small interruption, then you find yourself sidetracked by another and before you know it, your online study session has timed out.

Whether it is a well-intended co-worker in the office asking you a question or your manager calling you in for a last-minute meeting, or even the buzz of a new instant message from a colleague, these are distractions many people feel they have little to no control over.

If that’s not enough, you may even find yourself a distraction - your own thoughts focusing on other tasks or whirling about with work stresses.

If we look at the science of how our brains work, we can find clues to how concentration affects our body. The neural network that allows us to concentrate requires more energy than when we are thinking about nothing. This means with longer periods of concentration, our system runs out of energy, and inevitably our minds start to wander.

Knowing what inhibits our physical ability to concentrate, and minimising interruptions, means we can arm ourselves with the best tools to defeat distractions.

Here are nine simple yet effective ways in which you can limit possible distractions and even potentially rid them entirely from your online learning experience.

Sleep

It might sound like an obvious one, but making sure you’re well-rested before you start your learning is crucial for concentration. A tired mind cannot focus for long periods and will quickly become distracted.

Even a short, well-timed nap has the ability to improve focus and aid concentration.

Nutrition

What you put into your body directly affects how your brain functions.

Eating sugary snacks or drinks will cause energy lows and consequent distraction, so instead, try to fuel up with healthy snacks and drinks that will help maintain a steadier concentration level.

Look for foods with omega-3 fatty acids to help improve cognitive function, such as oily fish, walnuts or chia seeds.

Exercise

Like the food we eat, exercise also directly impacts how our brains work.

It helps increase oxygen and blood flow to the brain, which can improve memory function and concentration.

You don’t need to commit to a two-hour gym session every day, but even a short walk or some basic at-home exercises can help to improve focus.

Create study time

It may sound simple, but allowing yourself time to spend on your online learning is crucial. 

If you are studying outside office hours, setting aside time means you have a dedicated time frame where you have given yourself permission to focus.

If you plan to study within your work hours, it’s best to check in with your employer to make sure the time you have in mind also works for them. If it doesn’t, propose another time and stick to it.

Communicate intentions

If someone interrupts or distracts you, there’s a high chance the individual isn’t aware of dedicated focus time. 

In this situation, make it known to your co-workers that you won’t be available for the time you’ve set aside. Communicating your intentions helps limit any confusion.

Study space

Distractions primarily happen based on your environment. If you’re planning to study in a busy space, there’s a higher chance you’ll become distracted than if you choose a quieter option. 

With this in mind, if possible, move to a quieter part of the office or book a meeting room.

If you are in a home-office situation with multiple distractions, perhaps change your study time. This could include studying during nap time or after dinner when the kids are in bed.

Minimise interruptions

After you’ve set aside the time and found a comfortable and quiet space for your studies, it’s now about maintaining a suitable environment.

This means turning off your notifications, setting an out-of-office or do not disturb on your work communication tools, and turning off your phone.

If you need to keep your phone on, make sure all notifications are silenced and move any tempting apps from your home screen.

Take a break

As well as creating a suitable environment with little to no distractions, it’s also essential to allow yourself small breaks.

Set yourself a reminder to step away from the computer, give your eyes a break and drink some water.

Music

Even with the best intentions, it’s sometimes difficult to focus on your studies. It could be a challenging module or subject you’re struggling with for some reason. 

Listening to music, even meditative music, can help calm and refocus your mind, giving you the best chance of absorbing what you’re learning.

 

As this article reveals, there are many ways to reduce the number of distractions and increase concentration while undertaking online learning. 

While it’s paramount to allow yourself the best possible environment and conditions to succeed at online study, it’s also important to understand that lapses in focus and distractions are normal. 

It’s more about how you arm yourself against and manage these distractions that can help build solid study habits.

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