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Focusing in Zoom Lectures

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Before class

  • Connect course concepts to one another 
    • Why this works: Understanding how and why course concepts fit together not only make them easier to learn but can also make the material more interesting—and interesting material is much more likely to hold your attention.
    • How to do this: Spend 15 minutes reviewing your notes from the previous lecture and previewing content for the upcoming class. Consider how the different concepts relate to one another and what you anticipate learning about next. 
  • Generate questions about upcoming content 
    • Why this works: Asking questions about the material prepares you to learn and gives you something to listen for during lecture.
    • How to do it: As you preview upcoming content, create a list of questions you can be looking to answer in class. For example, How does new concept y connect to concept x in the last lecture? You can even use these questions as a starting point for your in-class notes.
  • Minimize distractions
    • Why this works: Research shows that your attention can only focus on one thing at a time. When you “multitask,” you are actually shifting your attention between two or more tasks, which slows your thinking and productivity.
    • How to do it: Put away your phone, find a quiet space where you won’t be disturbed during class, and close any windows or tabs on your computer that aren’t related to your lecture. Check out these other tips on how to minimize distractions
  • Consider your reasons for taking the course
    • Why this works: Every class has something to offer, even if the obvious appeal is to fulfill a requirement. More often than not, you’ll be able to connect the concepts or the skills you’re learning to something you care about, which can increase your motivation to focus. 
    • How to do this: Consider what concepts or skills you’re learning in the course, and how these relate to your larger goals or interests. Write this down, so you can remind yourself later. 

During class:

  • Maximize your Zoom screen
    • Why this works: This strategy goes hand-in-hand with minimizing distractions so you can maximize your focus. 
    • How to do it: Click the square Fullscreen button in the top right corner of your Zoom window. 
  • Take notes
    • Why this works: Taking notes helps focus your attention by encouraging active learning. Plus, it’s a great resource for homework and test prep later on. 
    • How to do it: Check out our handout on taking notes effectively. If you’re in full screen mode on Zoom and you want to take notes on your computer, try using the split screen function.
  • Turn on your camera, if possible 
    • Why this works: Knowing that others can see you may improve your focus by making you feel more accountable—similar to sitting in the front row of a classroom.
    • How to do it: Click the Start Video button on the Zoom toolbar. You can even set a custom background for privacy, fun, or to help people get to know you better. 
  • Ask questions
    • Why this works: Asking questions is a great way to stay engaged and get valuable information.
    • How to do it: Find out what your instructor’s expectations are for asking questions in class. If you have multiple options to choose from, pick the one you’re most comfortable with, whether that means unmuting yourself to speak, sending a private message to your instructor or TA, or typing something into the group chat.