Posted by ICON School on Jun 6, 2023 1:55:43 PM

Teen student distracted during online school work, stacking colored pencils in front of open laptop

Are you finding it challenging to stay focused during your online classes? The transition to virtual learning can be overwhelming and full of distractions. It's easy to feel like online school is just another task on your to-do list, competing for your attention. However, several factors can affect your ability to concentrate on your online schoolwork.

Here are 7 of the most common reasons that you are having trouble focusing when doing online school, and what you can do about them.  

1. No Daily Structure

For students used to attending school in person, having a lack of structure for each day can be difficult to get used to. At a brick-and-mortar school, the entire day is planned before the students walk in. Students get into routines and get used to the way each day flows. But at home, there is rarely that kind of structure for the day.

Students may interpret that lack of structure to mean that they don't have to do anything, or they may find themselves overwhelmed with too much to do and an inability to determine what order to do it in. Some kids excel with this kind of freedom, but many need to have an even stricter structure to their day for them to be able to focus.

Solution: To overcome this challenge, it's crucial to establish a personalized structure that aligns with your learning style. Create a daily timetable with dedicated time slots for each subject or assignment. Break down larger tasks into smaller, manageable chunks, allowing for a clearer sense of direction. Additionally, consider using organizational tools such as planners or digital calendars to stay on top of deadlines and responsibilities. By implementing a structured routine, you can regain a sense of control and enhance your focus during online school.

2. Mental Distractions

Students always have to contend with distractions, and there are even more of them at home, where they aren't in a classroom setting dedicated to learning. It's easier to daydream or get caught up in other thoughts when there isn't a teacher in the room to bring the class to attention. Additionally, the pandemic has added an entirely new set of mental distractions.

Students may be thinking too much about what they don't get to do, or they may be worried about themselves or loved ones, or feeling fear about the unknown future, instead of focusing on online school work. These mental distractions can be just as strong as a blaring TV in the room. 

Solution: To combat these mental distractions, it's important to prioritize your well-being and establish strategies for maintaining focus. Take regular breaks to engage in activities that promote relaxation and alleviate stress, such as mindfulness exercises or physical exercise. Consider creating a designated study space that minimizes external disturbances and signals a dedicated learning environment. Additionally, maintaining open communication with a trusted adult or support system can provide an outlet for sharing concerns and fears, enabling you to refocus your energy on your online school tasks. Proactively addressing mental distractions and nurturing your emotional well-being can enhance your focus and optimize your online learning experience.

3. Online Distractions

When students must spend a lot of time on their computers to do their schoolwork, it's easy to get distracted by other stuff they find online. Everyone has fallen into a rabbit hole online, looking at more and more pages to answer questions and learn more about something. This can be one of the biggest distractions. A student may keep several windows open so that they can check email and chat with friends while the class may be in session. Even though students like to believe they can multitask and have various tabs or conversations going on, doing so leads to distractibility when you're trying to get work done. 

Solution: Start to adopt effective strategies that promote concentration and limit digital temptations. Begin by creating a distraction-free workspace, free from social media notifications and other digital temptations. Use website-blocking apps or extensions to restrict access to distracting websites during study sessions. Consider implementing time-management techniques, such as the Pomodoro Technique, where you work in focused intervals followed by short breaks. During these breaks, you can reward yourself with brief online activities to satisfy your curiosity without derailing your focus. 

4. Technical Difficulties

When you’re dealing with any sort of technology, there’s a strong likelihood you’ll run into technical difficulties. Depending on the severity of these issues, this can be a huge obstacle for students, sometimes interfering with their ability to attend class or do homework.

Technical difficulties could include unreliable internet, a faulty laptop or computer, poor audio/video quality, and lack of understanding about how to use technology. If you’re experiencing technical difficulties often, don’t hesitate to talk to your teacher about potential solutions.

Solution: Be proactive and seek appropriate solutions. Start by ensuring a reliable internet connection by troubleshooting connectivity issues or contacting your internet service provider for assistance. Keep your devices updated and maintain regular maintenance to minimize hardware or software problems. Familiarize yourself with the online platforms and tools used in your classes through tutorials or help guides. If you continue to face technical hurdles, don't hesitate to reach out to your teacher or the technical support team provided by your school. They can offer guidance, troubleshooting tips, or alternative solutions to help you overcome these challenges.

Additionally, make sure to take breaks from technology. Constant screen time and the demands of online classes can contribute to Zoom fatigue and a sense of technological overwhelm. Incorporating regular breaks away from screens can provide much-needed rejuvenation and mental clarity. 

5. No One to Refocus

In a classroom, a teacher is there to help refocus a student who gets distracted. This is related to the structure of in-person school, and it's one of the biggest ways online students can struggle when they're learning on their own. And, while in the classroom often the distractions come in the form of friends and other students, at home there are tons of different distractions—the internet, pets, siblings, game consoles, snacks in the kitchen, etc. Without an authority figure setting expectations and tasks, it can be tough for students to refocus themselves.

Solution: To address this issue, work toward developing self-refocusing strategies and techniques. One effective solution is to create a personal accountability system. Set clear goals and establish a study schedule that aligns with your learning style and preferences. Break down your tasks into manageable chunks and prioritize them based on importance. Find tools like to-do lists, timers, or task management apps to stay organized and track your progress. Most importantly, take advantage of teachers, counselors, parents--anyone who is dedicated to your success--so that they can help support you and talk through solutions that help you develop habits that keep you focused. 

6. The Same Scenery

At in-person school, kids get a change of scenery regularly, going from one class to another and going to built-in breaks. Not having those breaks can cause frustration and make it harder to keep focus for the full school day. There aren't opportunities to chat with friends in the hallway, no built-in times to stretch their legs and no times for decompression in between learning tasks. Many students end up spending their school day in their bedroom, which equates to even more of the same old scenery. 

Solution: To overcome the monotony of studying in the same environment, online students can incorporate small changes to their study routines. Try rearranging your desk or workspace to create a fresh layout. Use colorful stationery or accessories to add visual interest. Take short breaks between subjects or tasks to stretch, move around, or step outside for a breath of fresh air. Consider setting up virtual study sessions with classmates or joining online study groups to simulate social interaction and break up the routine. When possible, explore outdoor study options, as these can also provide a refreshing change of scenery. Find a quiet park, patio, or backyard where you can study amidst nature or fresh air. This change in environment can invigorate your senses and enhance concentration.

7. Bedroom Studying

Many online school learners will choose to study or take classes from their bedroom. Depending on the student’s resources and setup, they may end up doing all this from their bed, which isn’t the best place for focus. We all associate our beds with rest, and this association can interfere with our ability to concentrate and learn. We might be tempted to lay down or take a cat nap, for example. A great way to combat this is to create a designated study space separate from your bedroom or any other space you associate with leisure or relaxation.

Solution: You guessed it: you need a designated study space separate from your bedroom or other leisure areas. Create a dedicated area where you can set up your materials, whether it's a corner of your living room, a home office, or even a quiet spot in the library. This physical separation helps train your brain to associate that space with productivity and concentration, making it easier to stay focused and avoid the temptation of distractions associated with your bedroom. 

Adapting to the Change

Many students are now attending online school for the first time. This is a big change that they have to quickly adapt to. There's no way to shorten the time that this takes—students simply have to do their schoolwork each day and get used to not having a teacher around. It's always helpful if there is a parent or other caregiver at home to help them when they have technical problems or are having a hard time adjusting to the circumstances.

Online School Can Work

While online learning has its challenges, there are also many benefits. Students can log on 24/7, attend virtual school sessions with teachers and other students, and work within a schedule that meets their needs. At ICON, we are here to help students through the online school experience while minimizing many of the challenges listed above.

Are you wondering if online schooling is the right choice for you? We are here to help. To speak to a personal representative, please call us at (208) 475-3093 or email us at You can also fill out our contact form and we'll get in touch.

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