Online class during COVID-19: boredom, distraction and procrastination

University of Minnesota students share some of their biggest academic distractions and strategies for success while in quarantine.

Illustration by Eva Berezovsky

Eva Berezovsky

Illustration by Eva Berezovsky

Frankie Carlson

For many students, the transition from in-person to online classes from home comes with many distractions. Locked indoors with family, roommates and pets running about is not an ideal academic environment. With social isolation, limited activity and the very real option of spending the entire day in bed, some are finding it tough to remain focused.

Sophomore business marketing and education major Robel Asmelash said he finds it hard to concentrate while kept up in his apartment. Maintaining a handle on his course load when he is not able to study elsewhere or meet with peers or teachers is difficult, he said.

“If I’m spending 24 hours staying inside, not talking to others, not able to exercise [and] not going outside, my mental capacity and ability to think straight isn’t going to be as high,” he said.

Sophomore finance major Elizabeth Peura has similarly struggled with staying motivated over the past few weeks.

“Something that would take me an hour will take me two hours to do,” she said. “Not that I have many distractions living alone, but just sitting alone in my apartment with an unstructured schedule knowing that I have so long to do something just takes me forever to do it.”

One of the most common tips given by University students for staying on track is maintaining a schedule. Junior aerospace engineering major Campbell Dunham found that sticking to his regular class schedule for online lectures and meetings is what has kept him from falling behind.

“Most of our professors record our lectures, so you don’t necessarily have to go, but one thing I always make sure I do is to watch the lecture as it’s happening,” he said. “You’re not reminded as frequently for what assignments are due, so I try to make sure to check each class every day.”

Establishing a normal routine has also helped Peura during this time.

“If I stay in my sweatpants all day, I will not be productive. If I stay in my bed trying to do homework, I will not be productive,” she said. “I have to be getting up, getting dressed and actually leaving my bedroom to try to be productive.” 

Several students have run into problems from being confined for long hours with roommates and parents.

Freshman strategic communications and psychology student Katherine Regas had trouble finding space and time for Zoom meetings since moving back in with her parents in Illinois.  

“I was doing Spanish earlier, and my mom just walks in and starts talking to me, and I had to be like, ‘Mom I’m in class! I’m a little busy!”’ she said. 

Sam Hanson, a senior studying computer science, said he feels the need to separate himself from his roommates when trying to focus on completing assignments.

“Most of the distractions arise from us distracting each other,” Hanson said. “You’ll be in the middle of an assignment, and you go down to make a quick snack, and suddenly you’re distracted by all of your roommates watching TV.” 

Social media is another major distraction, Hanson said, and because it’s one of the only ways he can connect with his friends during quarantine, he finds himself checking it constantly.

“It’s mostly adapting when I feel like I’m not being productive or efficient in my work. That’s when I’m like, ‘Okay I’ve checked my phone three times in the past hour — it’s time for me to put it across the room.’ Having that physical 10-foot distance helps me to kind of forget about it,” he said.