E-Learning provides a wealth of benefits for adult students in the corporate environment. With Internet-capable devices routinely available both in the workplace and at home, adult learners can choose the setting that works best for them. But with the flexibility of mobile learning comes myriad distractions — chores, family members, pets, social media and more.
For better e-Learning, companies should make sure adult learners understand the benefits of minimizing distractions to get the most out of educational materials. Providing mobile learners with some guidelines can help them achieve optimal results in their mobile learning efforts.
1. Creating a distraction-free zone
Distractions for mobile learners are unlimited, and getting sidetracked for hours is seemingly effortless. Whether becoming lost in the endless rabbit hole of the Internet or succumbing to the lure of housework and laundry, mobile learners face any number of potential distractions vying for their attention.
Creating an optimized work area can help mobile learners keep their attention on the task at hand. The first step is removing as many physical distractions as possible, such as silencing cell phones and using a “do not disturb” sign as a signal to others. Letting friends and family members know that a quiet, undisturbed environment is important for study time also can help reduce potential distractions.
In addition, reducing clutter can have a powerful effect on minimizing distractions and promoting a learning environment.
2. Making a schedule and sticking to it
It’s often said that everyone has the same 24 hours in the day. But it’s up to each individual to determine how that time is used. For adult learners working to meet many competing demands, planning and scheduling learning time is critical to success.
A schedule can be as simple as a piece of paper with times written down and activities blocked off. Any number of free, web-based scheduling solutions like Google Calendar also work well; an advantage of digital is that it can be shared easily with family members and co-workers to let them know the adult learner’s availability.
Because priorities and commitments can change on a daily basis, taking a few minutes before bed each evening to schedule the next day’s work can be helpful. Students should estimate how long tasks will take, block off the time and stick to the schedule to accomplish their goals.
3. Beating procrastination
The great Charles Dickens once said, “Procrastination is the thief of time.” At no point in history has that been more true than today, with unlimited interesting activities only a swipe or a mouse click away. To overcome the very human tendency to procrastinate, adult learners should create and stick to a plan to accomplish their e-Learning goals.
Productivity gurus advocate breaking large tasks into smaller parts; meeting small goals can give adult learners a sense of accomplishment that fuels further motivation. Setting time limits for tasks also can help. For instance, instead of sitting down for an e-Learning session with no end point in mind, an adult student might set a timer for an hour and then take a break. Knowing that time is limited can keep an e-Learner’s mind on the current task.
4. Getting enough rest
Many people feel that they have better focus when deadlines loom. This belief often fuels procrastination and then stress when the 11th hour finally arrives. The stress of repeated cycles of procrastination and frantically rushing to finish tasks can result in fatigue and poor sleep.
Adult learners should understand the importance of getting enough sleep and of scheduling peaceful downtime. Sleep affects learning and memory in significant ways, according to the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School. An individual who is sleep-deprived is unable to focus well, and efficient learning is impaired. In addition, lack of sleep deteriorates memory, which is critical to retaining learned information.
5. Working at the most productive times
Times of day for maximum alertness and productivity vary by individual. Adult learners should take advantage of the times at which they typically are most productive by using that time for e-Learning. Research indicates that using a certain time period each day to focus on specific tasks can improve the brain’s ability to map the new information consistently.
6. Using apps to stay focused
Many apps and tools exist that can help adult e-Learners stay focused when using various types of computers and tablets. Apps like Freedom can block online distractions for up to eight hours in one sitting. The Anti-Social app focuses on blocking particularly distracting types of sites. Other apps like RescueTime help adult learners uncover their daily patterns and become more productive.
7. Creating rewards
The use of rewards in education is controversial — some research shows that students motivated by external rewards perform more poorly and are less excited about learning. However, small rewards created by adult learners for themselves can help improve focus. For example, an e-Learner might decide they can use social media for a certain period of time after completing the day’s goals. Adults who have trouble focusing are especially motivated by rewards, according to some psychologists.
To promote better e-Learning away from the workplace, companies should encourage employees to create distraction-free environments. Using a schedule, overcoming procrastination, getting ample rest, working at the most productive times of day, incorporating productivity apps and creating small rewards also can help adult learners stay focused and motivated.
We would love to hear your thoughts. How do you stay focused when you're in your "learning zone?"