At this point, I think it’s just common knowledge that online lectures are difficult to sit through. At the beginning it’s easy to pay attention, but by the half hour mark I can’t deny that my concentration goes downhill.
Somehow, I managed to get through a semester of online summer courses, and it seems like most of us will be taking virtual courses full-time this fall, so, here are some strategies I’ve used to keep my attention during lectures.
1. Reach out to professors before or after class. It makes me feel more invested in the lecture. Have a conversation about the course, they are there to help you and in my experience, are quite happy to have a student to speak to.
2. Add to discussion when you can. If there’s the option to speak out loud, do it! I have one class this semester that has group discussions. I pay more attention to the lecture because I know I’ll actually get to interact with others.
3. Listen to the lecture with someone. Sometimes, if it’s is during the evening, I sit in our dining room with my laptop open and my parents sit nearby to listen.
4. Alternatively: simply playing the lecture out loud (without headphones) makes me feel more accountable. It means my family knows I’m in-class (and will therefore know if I switch to Netflix).
5. The question rule: a goal that I set for myself is to write down at least one question I have for the professor each class. I don’t always actually ask the question, but it helps me stay listening to make sure it doesn’t get answered during the lecture.
6. Hide your phone. I am guilty of texting non-stop during lectures. Now I make sure I put it far away before starting class.
7. Be mindful. Remind yourself to enjoy learning. This lecture is one you will likely never hear again, and it’s probably being given by a specialist in the field (that’s pretty cool!).
8. If all else fails, try and think about useful topics while partly listening to the lecture. I try to plan my essays during class, because then at least I’m engaging with the material in some way.
I think the most important thing about how to pay attention during online lectures is to constantly change up your strategies. Just because one strategy worked a few times doesn’t mean it will work again. Our brains need stimulation, so try as many things as you can!
Student Life is hosting a Facebook Live about this very topic on July 28, find it here: https://www.facebook.com/events/1521629751348956/. Bring your questions about online classes!