As a responsible elearning professional in the pandemic world, you have taken up the noble task of teaching your students online. First things first: You successfully set up a comprehensive elearning system. Then, you create awesome course content that cuts through all the noise, thinking your students will like it. But, surprise, you see them dropping out more often!
So, here’s the million-dollar question: What’s bugging your learners?
At first, you might make sure content is actually able to strike the right note with your students. What if the problem lies elsewhere?
And what if we told you that your elearning site could be one of the reasons? Why do students get distracted and what can you do about it?
Time to focus. You’re about to find out.
How distractions affect learning
Online learning is great. A plethora of gadgets such as computers, tablets, smartphones offer unlimited possibilities of meaningful learning through creativity and collaboration. But these devices can also be distracting to students.
Constant notifications, access to social media, and the internet when learning on a computer or mobile can be tempting, and drive students away from the course content.
But that’s a problem to be solved once you fix the content delivery platform. The very LMS you have provided for their learning could be full of disruptive elements. And until this matter is resolved —by, for example, turning your site into a distraction-free zone—, your students will find it difficult to focus.
On most online learning websites, this is the primary reason why learners don’t effectively connect with course content: Their learning platforms are full of distractions!
The disheartening landscape of distractions on students
Students can face a hard time succeeding in almost every area if they don’t shut out distractions.
Not only understanding but also recalling information can be a bit of a challenge for your learners.
Digital Amnesia caused by excessive smartphone usage can affect capacity to retain new information.
Students could grapple with controlling their emotions and being empathetic
The sources or causes of distraction in learning
Here are 5 major sources of distractions that can disrupt the learning process:
Online learners have a greater tendency to multitask. Multitasking behavior and distraction can compromise the effectiveness of online courses. Learners’ attention is fragmented in texting, answering emails, chatting on Facebook or WhatsApp, watching videos on YouTube, browsing on Google, or listening to music while taking an online course. These distractions take the already emotionally absent students away from their learning objectives.
№2. Messy design
The clutter on your elearning site can also be a major productivity killer. On-screen distractions such as huge sidebars, navigation menus that take up a lot of space, banner ads, too many action-items or buttons, etc., are elements that contribute to on-screen distractions. They can lead to students zoning out.
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№3. Complex navigation
Students don’t like to spend too long to reach their course content. They are easily frustrated with extensive navigation that either takes them nowhere or eventually wandering elsewhere — another major cause of distraction. Also the more choices you give them, the longer it will take them to make a decision. Too many items can confuse and distract your students causing them to drop out.
№4. Text-heavy course content
Avoid text-heavy content as much as possible, should be a primary concern in your elearning design, given the short attention span of learners. Students sitting through a monotonous lecture made of endless paragraphs, turning a lesson into passively listening or following linearly leaves them overwhelmed and eventually distracted. Learners may prefer watching a video with text side-by-side rather than just going over boring textual information that takes longer to take in and retain.
№5. Readability is tricky
Apart from interactive content, the font and color choice of your e-learning site matters too. You must consider readability, responsiveness, loading time and browser compatibility of the font used so that it is legible and easily accessible to all your students irrespective of the devices they use. Students tend to instinctively move away from bad font and color combinations and can get easily distracted. On an aesthetic front, it should be easy on the eyes and consistent with your initiative or branding as well.
Lessons from a popular reading platform
After analyzing the different learning and reading platforms used, we found some best practices to improve learning outcomes.
The huge success of such platforms can be attributed to some of these great features:
Learn on-the-go without getting distracted.
Enable "backlighting" feature, similar to focus mode which makes it possible to study in a dark environment with very little disturbance.
Quick and simple search, a simple yet powerful search feature for arefined UX.
Comfortable readability that allows you to adjust the display to help better align with your preferences and vision needs. It scores high on design and layout so readers can focus.
Some reading platforms offer a super-simple way to look up the meaning of any word you don’t understand then and there. There’s no need for you to get up and grab a physical dictionary. A built-in dictionary feature lets you hover or double-click on a word, and you can see the definition of that word immediately. Effort saved, time saved, distraction avoided!
You can easily link them up with other apps or platforms. Easy integration with other platforms promotes convenience and reduces distractions.
Online learning is the medium of the moment. Thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, students studying from the comfort of their homes now have a fresh new batch of distractions to put up with. They are constantly distracted by the physical environment around them due to a lack of a teacher-supervised classroom. (Not that ordinary lectures on campus are automatically great.) Turning the focus mode on is crucial for students to concentrate and foster meaningful learning.
For learners to stick around, you want to very subtly lead your students towards the information that matters the most. You want to do so super-smoothly: Identifying the kind of information that can be effectively processed to extract knowledge, application, and other meaningful bits, adds up to the real learning initiative.
It’s important to keep distractions away, as focused learning devoid of interruptions gives your learners a solid reason to stay on your e-learning program without being bothered by disturbances. Not only will this keep your students more organized and disciplined, but they are less likely to get distracted.