“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world” - Nelson Mandela

During the Second World War, researcher Norman Mackworth created an experiment to test the vigilance of radar operators. The test, known as the Mackworth Clock, became a common test of vigilance and concentration over long periods. Vigilance decreases after 30 minutes with errors increasing by 10 to 15%.

Of course, concentration varies between people. Like a muscle, you can train your concentration to become more productive by avoiding certain bad habits.

During online tutorials, when the students and tutor aren't physically in the same room, it can be difficult to fully focus on the teaching. For your tutorials to work, both parties need to be focused on the course and work together to make sure that the digital tools are used effectively.

With that in mind, here are our tips for staying focused during online classes.

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Tip #1 - The Right Environment

With the pandemic, a lot of students have seen their classes move online. Staying focused throughout an entire class isn’t easy, even at home. The first thing to do is to look at is your surroundings.

Where should you do online tutorials?
Make sure that you have a dedicated workspace and that's it clean and free of clutter. (Source: mediamonk)

Start by getting out of bed! Staying in bed is a tempting idea but it won’t do anything to help your concentration. It’s more likely to make you want to sleep. Furthermore, it’s not good for your posture and can lead to back and neck pain.

It’s best to have a dedicated workspace where you can learn, study, and revise for exams. Working at a desk with your back straight and your feet on the floor is a great way to ensure that you stay focused.

Find out more about online tutoring during the pandemic.

Tip #2 - Get Rid of Distractions

Distractions are concentration’s worst enemy! We’re not very good at multitasking and if you’re scrolling through your social media feeds, watching a show, or listening to music at the same time, you’ll not be fully focused on your lesson.

How can you learn with online tutorials?
Certain activities, like online tutorials, require a lot of focus. (Source: stevepb)

It’s a good idea to put your phone into aeroplane mode or at least disable notifications.

As for your computer, close every window that you won’t be using so that you won’t be tempted to look at them.

Find a calm and quiet place away from a TV or other family members as this will allow you to focus on your lesson and avoid interruptions.

Tip #3 - Maintain a Routine

If you wake up one day at 8, another at 10, and the following day at 11, you’ll struggle to focus. You’ll feel like you’re on holiday rather than attending lessons at school. Maintaining a routine and fixed schedule is a good way to ensure that you’re alert.

Get up and get ready as if you were going to school or university. Get showered and dressed and have breakfast like it was any normal day. Just because you’re not going to school, it doesn’t mean that you should change your routine.

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Tip #4 - Take Regular Breaks, Even During Your Lessons

As we’ve mentioned, you’re at your most alert in 20-to-30-minute periods. The Pomodoro Technique, for example, is based on this idea.

We recommend at least taking a break for between 30 seconds and a minute after every half an hour. Get up out of your chair, stretch, yawn, etc. Drink some water, get some fresh air, walk around for a bit. Sit back down and refocus on your lessons.

How long can you concentrate for?
Online tutorials can be mentally intensive so make sure that you take regular breaks. (Source: StockSnap)

After an hour or two (depending on the length of your lessons), try to take a break of at least 10 to 15 minutes away from the screen. This should help you to maintain a good level of focus.

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Callie
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Declan
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Tip #5 - Participate as Much as Possible During the Lessons

If you want to concentrate, get involved! Participation means that you have to focus on what your teacher is saying.

Of course, not every class will allow you to participate as much as you want, but interact with the teacher and the other students whenever you can as it’ll make the lesson more engaging, too. The interaction will ensure that you’re concentrating.

Don’t hesitate to ask questions as it’s harder for the teacher to see who’s struggling and who gets it when all their students are behind a webcam.

Take charge of your learning!

Find out how online tutoring can help children.

Tip #6 - Stay in Touch with Your Teachers and Classmates

Outside of your lessons, make sure that you’re keeping in touch with your classmates and teachers to stay on top of your work. You could create a Facebook group or Discord server to talk about classes.

Send an email to your teacher if you need help or extra information.

Tip #7 - Eat and Drink

The brain consumes around a quarter of our body’s energy. Starting your lessons on an empty stomach will hurt your comprehension.

A good breakfast will give you the energy you need for your morning lessons and ensure you can concentrate. Dedicate between 10 and 20 minutes in the morning to breakfast and enjoy some cereal, fresh fruit, eggs, cheese and dairy products, or nuts.

Make sure that you’re regularly drinking water throughout the day. Water is the best way to hydrate and make sure that your brain is working at its full potential.

If you get peckish mid-morning, have some nuts or cereal. Avoid certain cereal bars as many of them aren’t that good for you.

Tip #8 - Move Around

Young students find it hard enough to sit still in a chair all day and doing so in front of a screen is even tougher.

Moving around is good for your health and movement can also help you to concentrate, which you need to do more than ever during online tutorials.

Keep in mind that even if you can’t physically move around every 15 minutes, consider moving around in your mind. For example, to remember a new concept, visualise a scenario in your head. This is a good technique for remembering events in history class, for example.

You can also draw as you listen. You don’t need to create a masterpiece. Drawing notes or sketchnoting is a good way to be more active in your notetaking.

Think about changing position.

Why not install a standing desk?

Not only is sitting bad for concentration, but it’s also bad for your health.

You can walk around as you study. Movement is good for concentration no matter what kind of work you’re doing.

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Tip #9 - Get Enough Sleep

Sleep is incredibly important for remaining focused and restful sleep is conducive to good concentration. A bad night’s sleep can make it hard to focus the following day as you’ll spend the day yawning and struggle to listen to your teacher.

Is sleep important for learning?
Make sure you get enough sleep as it's important for learning and memory. (Source: Free-Photos)

Just like our body, our brain needs to recover. It spends the whole day working, sorting, remembering, creating memories, and at the end, it needs to rest. A routine will help you to sleep better. Apps like f.lux are useful for helping you to sleep better, especially if you’re using your computer late at night.

Ideally, don’t use any devices with screens within half an hour to an hour of going to bed. Read a book or study handwritten notes rather than looking at a screen. While it can be tempting to watch a YouTube tutorial before bed (especially educational ones as you can convince yourself that you're learning), it's better to avoid any devices right before bed.

Turn off the notifications on your phone. Ideally, keep your phone as far away from you as possible when you go to sleep.

It’s not easy, but you can do it!

If you're looking for tutoring of any kind, check out the thousands of private tutors on Superprof. There are tutors for all levels and subjects from all around the UK and the world.

There are three main types of tutoring available and each has its pros and cons, especially during the pandemic.

Face-to-face tutorials were often the preferred tutorial as even though they're often the most expensive, they're also the most cost-effective. In a one-on-one tutorial, the tutor can adapt their teaching approach and pedagogy to the student that they're tutoring. The extra work they put into planning the lessons is reflected in the rates. Sadly, with the restrictions in place regularly changing, it's quite difficult to know how long before you'll have to cancel any regular face-to-face tutorials.

Group tutorials are in a similar situation to face-to-face tutorials during the pandemic. While they are great for those on a budget, regularly gathering in groups isn't advised during the pandemic and a lot of tutors have stopped offering group tutorials or took them online. That said, when you can get them, they're often the cheapest type of tutoring as the cost is shared amongst all the students in attendance.

As we've mentioned, online tutorials are incredibly useful during the pandemic. As tutors don't need to travel and can schedule more tutorials each week, they tend to charge less than the face-to-face tutorials. Furthermore, as they take place remotely, they're completely COVID-safe.

Many of the tutors on Superprof offer the first lesson for free so try a few out and see which one is right for you and your budget.

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Joseph

Joseph is a French and Spanish to English translator, language enthusiast, and blogger.