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How to Remove Distractions for Students During Online Classes

Oct 05, 2020 | 42Gears Team


The start of the 2020-2021 school year is a bit different from most. Many students will take classes at home, and unfortunately, distractions for students are everywhere.

If you find that student distractions are making teaching hard, you can do something about it. Here are five distractions that every student deals with in a Zoom-based classroom – and how to get rid of those distractions.

1. Family in the Background

During Zoom calls, students have to make do with the quietest locations they can find in their houses. Naturally, some students have quieter working spaces than others. If someone must be surrounded by constant noise, it makes learning difficult for them.

How to Find: You can likely identify background noise when talking with students. Plus, if family members enter into the student’s camera feed background regularly, this suggests the student has little personal space.

How to Stop: It is best to deal with this by addressing the class as a whole, rather than singling out any particular student. A great first step is to ask that students purchase and wear noise-cancelling headphones. Noise-cancelling headphones like the Mpow H17 headset sell for under 40 dollars, making this a reasonable request to ask of most students.

2. Smartphone-Based Distractions for Students

Even before the pandemic, students often viewed their smartphones as the hub of their social lives. Now that in-person contact is infrequent, smartphones even greater distractions for students. Moreover, students can secretly paste classwork into mobile search browsers to find hints and answers.

How to Find: Teachers know the telltale signs of a « covert » phone user – frequent glances away from the Zoom call, confusion when asked basic comprehension questions, and so on. Students might also try to make their phone use seem like note-writing, taking advantage of their computer’s camera angle.

How to Stop: In regards to socialization, you may consider allocating a few minutes in the middle of class as a break time. In exchange, you can reasonably ask students to remain focused and not use their phones during the rest of class.

In regards to preventing cheating, you can ask students to make space on their phone that’s just for school content – a process called “containerization.” Apple and Android both have programs to make this happen, but since your students likely have both kinds of phones, you should consider a third-party mobile device management solution like SureMDM. You can use SureMDM to secure school data on Apple and Android devices at the same time.

3. Daydreaming in a Familiar Setting

Students often associate school with schooling, and home with family and relaxation. This means that students may often daydream about their personal lives during remote lessons, even if they are otherwise excellent students.

How To Find: Daydreaming is difficult to catch. Students may look at their cameras while daydreaming, ruling out smartphone use. In any case, if students seem to be working in a quiet setting, are not using their phones, and still seem confused, they may just be daydreaming.

How To Stop: Daydreaming indicates a lack of engagement. Many students struggle to focus in remote-learning environments, so teachers should integrate tasks that require active participation from every student. These could include group projects, smartphone-based activities like the interactive quiz system Kahoot!, and more.

4. Off-Topic Browsing

Students may seem to pay close attention, looking at their computer screens with their full attention… but they could simply be using other tabs in the same browser they use for remote learning. At the best of times, teachers worldwide struggle with students who alternate between classwork and other tabs for socialization, cheating, and more. Now that accountability is low, this is a bigger issue than ever before.

How To Find: It’s difficult to catch off-topic browsing. As a result, it’s difficult to hold students responsible. This means that many students will keep browsing until they earn poor test grades. At that point, it’s too late for the teacher to intervene.

How to Stop: You can keep students on-task using a secure browser like SureFox. SureFox is designed to turn computers into kiosks that can only access pre-approved websites. In the context of remote learning, this is exactly what students need. This is especially easy to implement if you own the computers students are using, like many schools worldwide do.


Teachers can’t remove every student distraction – but they can anticipate distractions and plan accordingly. Working at home is a distracting experience for many, in no small part due to noisy or intrusive families. Keeping students engaged, and encouraging students to buy cheap noise-cancelling headphones, can bring relief for both the students and the teacher.

As far as technology concerns go – like misusing smartphones or a web browser – you can use mobile device management software to help. SureMDM lets you set up virtual “containers” for classroom data on student smartphones, and SureFox lets you restrict student browsing to only pre-approved websites.

« Stop students from getting distracted during online classes. »


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