According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 65% of all college students took at least one online class in 2021, the most recent year they tracked data for. But it’s not just college kids taking classes online these days — students ranging from elementary to high school and beyond have attended classes online in recent years.
While many students love the freedom and flexibility that comes with taking online classes, even the most ardent supporter of distance learning understands the challenges of staying engaged during online lectures. Simply put, it’s sometimes hard to not get bored in online class.
As a teacher for nearly 20 years — including during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic when all learning shifted online — I’m very familiar with the challenges that students face when taking classes over the internet. I’ve also found that the challenges students face staying engaged during online learning extend beyond the confines of the virtual classroom. There are things that happen prior to the online class and even after class that may increase our likelihood to become bored.
Based on my interactions with students, I’ve put together a collection of tips to help you take a proactive approach towards not getting bored. The result? Not only will you find your classes a little more enjoyable, but you’ll perform better as a student.
Tips to Eliminate Boredom Before Class
Taking these steps before class can go a long way to fending off boredom:
Get enough sleep.
Mental resets are critical. When we are tired, our ability to focus is lost. Things that may normally interest us or that we can at least tolerate may be lost when we do not get a good night’s sleep.
And unfortunately, the CDC says the majority of students aren’t getting enough sleep. As a teacher, I can always see how students who aren’t getting enough sleep struggle to stay focused and motivated in class.
You have to make sure your brain has ample time to rest, so that you are able to function, focus, and thrive.
Who knew that boredom could be linked to insufficient sleep?
Read and preview all supplied materials.
Make sure you have taken amply time to read supplied material, watched any videos (you can even speed up video playback to make it more engaging), or previewed multimedia content.
Cutting corners will only encourage disengagement. When you have an idea of what the topic is about, you’ll become more interested and focused during class.
On the other hand, if the first time you have heard the material is in class, you may be so confused by the content that you completely check out as soon as class begins.
Remaining engaged is a lot easier when you are prepared to add something to the lesson.
Be prepared to ask questions.
As a teacher, I love when students have questions!
While you are previewing materials, take some notes and write down any questions you have. Knowing that you are showing to class with questions will cue your brain to remain focused and invested in what’s to come.
Active participation will also make time pass more quickly than if you are just idly sitting checked out. Through your inquiry, you may even be able to boost classmates’ attention.
And take it from this longtime educator, your teacher will appreciate you for asking insightful, engaging questions.
Don’t be too hard on yourself.
If you know that the upcoming class will leave you bored and counting the tiles on your floor, be patient with yourself. If you have tried the previous tips and you are still struggling to stay focused, rest easy knowing you have done what you could. In this case, you will just have to work through it.
Things to Do When Bored in Online Class
Sometimes logging on to class may feel like you have done your part, but once you’re logged in, you need to do your part to stay focused and engaged.
Here are some things to do while you’re bored in online class…
Don’t check out.
Mentally checking out is one of the worst things you can do. You need to stay focused and motivated to learn.
What is normally a one hour class will feel like it is doubled or even tripled when you have the mindset, I am here, but not really.
In other words, stay engaged and focused. Limit distractions in your study space, so that you cannot just check out and let something else engage you.
Multitasking may seem like a good idea, but it usually does not end up.
If you are trying to attend online class, surf through social media, and text friends, you are making it hard to get anything out of the class.
If the physical restraint to avoid using other apps is not enough, try using a third-party monitoring app to help lock yourself out of whatever apps you designate.
Enjoy a beverage while you learn.
Do you like hot tea? Cold soda?
Allowing yourself to enjoy a favorite drink while you are in class can stimulate your senses. This type of grounding can aid you in staying in the moment.
Engaging your senses of smell, taste, sight, and touch can keep you in class mentally and physically.
Ask for help.
Is there a classmate whose enthusiasm is greater than yours?
If so, try to borrow some of their enthusiasm. No, seriously, ask them how they stay excited about online classes. They may have had to work through the boredom themselves.
Take notes during class.
By involving as many of your senses as possible, the less bored you will be.
In my experience, the students who perform best are the ones who regularly take notes during class. Taking notes helps you be more focused (i.e. less bored) and knowledgeable about the content. Also, having notes can prove to be a valuable study tool for upcoming exams.
Don’t deprive yourself.
You are in class and you need to go to the bathroom.
What should you do?
What would you do if you were physically in class and had to go?
You may have to play this one by ear based on your professor’s expectations, but generally take the break if you need the break. A quick change of scenery may zap back your interest and shock your system out of boredom.
Things to Do After Class
The boredom session has ended. You made it.
What happens next? In many ways, that’s where the real work begins. I can tell you that the students who do best in school are the ones who put in the time to get better after class.
Knowing that class will be coming up again all too soon, don’t neglect these after-class tips. They can prepare you to continue a successful semester.
Do your homework.
What needs to be done before the next class?
Making sure that assignments are complete is an essential part of earning a good grade in the class.
Also, completing the homework assignments will prepare you to stay focused during upcoming discussions.
Last of all, everyone knows that the better you understand the content, the more prepared you will be to ace the exam.
Ask yourself: why am I so bored in class?
Are you bored because you want to be doing other things? Taking a nap? Playing golf? Hanging out with friends?
Clearly, there are more entertaining ways to spend our time, but since the class you’re taking is a requirement, just ditching it for some other luxury is not an option.
Don’t make comparisons.
Making comparisons between classes or even class versus other activities will likely only make your head hurt even more. After all, it is likely that a class taught by your most favored celebrity of all time cannot compare to a day spent swimming at the lake or a leisurely afternoon at the beach.
Find at least one topic that interests you.
The class that you are taking – the one that has you bored out of your mind – you are obviously enrolled in because somehow it is necessary.
Pick one area to truly get psyched up about. Use free time to even learn something new related to that topic that may even impress your online classmates and professor.
Talk about a way to spice up a boring class if you are prepared to offer some new info that no one expects you to know.
Half glass or half full?
The class isn’t going to just go away because you hate it. Regardless of how bored you are, the class will remain active and required.
This is a fact and something that cannot be changed; nonetheless, your perspective can be changed. When we choose to adjust our perspective, we are using vital coping strategies that can be the difference between success and failure.
Other Helpful Tips to Prevent Boredom in Online Class
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. This famous quotation coined by Benjamin Franklin is applicable here. To prepare for online courses, follow these steps before class ever begins.
Create a designated workspace.
A specific studying place to sit with materials close by will help decrease distractions and maintain organization. Working in a clutter-free environment is another way to be prepared to beat boredom.
Limit distractions that may require leaving your phone in a different location. Try to study where there is little to no noise.
Have a study plan/routine.
Regardless of if you are a single individual, a busy parent, or somewhere in between, having time to study and attend class free of other obligations is a key way to not be so checked out that you are bored just because you cannot focus. Work with others to create a study plan or routine to minimize distractions and frustrations.
Don’t be so busy trying to be superman or superwoman that you forget to breathe. Your mind requires rest periods; otherwise, you are going to find yourself bored in an online class.
While most of us love the opportunities online education presents, it’s important to understand there are some challenges that come with it. One of the big challenges that’s not talked about enough is how easy it is for students to get bored and check out during online lectures.
The good news is there are plenty of ways before, during, and after class to curb boredom and maximize your success.
Deciding what things to do when you’re bored in an online class isn’t as simple as just grinning and bearing it.
I hope these tips prove to be effective boredom busters!
Looking for more ways to be a better student during online learning? Check out our virtual learning tips for students.