4 in 5 college students have trouble concentrating after switching to remote learning

ITASCA, Ill. — College students have a lot on their plates. Many are more than just students, they’re workers, caregivers, and even parents. Now, a new study reveals the switch to remote learning during the coronavirus pandemic has made earning a college degree even harder. Researchers with the American Academy of Pediatrics found that four in five college students are finding hard to concentrate on their school work while taking classes at home.

Moreover, a survey of students in 166 accredited colleges and universities across 44 states reveals that more than half are struggling to balance remote classes and their household responsibilities. Nearly half the poll also cited mental health issues as a growing barrier to online learning.

Of the more than 300 students responding to the anonymous survey, nearly 80 percent said they have trouble concentrating during remote learning sessions. Previous studies have found that parents of younger children are also concerned about remote learning. One poll found moms and dads think their kids have fallen two grades behind while students stayed home during the pandemic.

The new poll examined the affects on canceling in-person classes through June of 2020. Researchers discovered that college students face a number of challenges when they can’t enter their campuses, including limited access to a computer and even food insecurity.

Learning from home can be a juggling act

The poll shows over 57 percent of students say their responsibilities at home often get in the way of paying attention to their school work. Specifically, respondents noted having to take care of siblings during the pandemic as well as doing more chores while at home. Hispanic students reported running into these barriers more often than non-Hispanic respondents.

Another 46 percent say mental health issues are making it harder for them to concentrate on remote classes. One in 12 students (8.5%) said remote learning is an issue because they lack access to a computer or internet-connected device. Just under seven percent of the poll said they also face difficulties with hunger and obtaining food while off-campus.

Just 4.6 percent of the respondents said they had no problems at all while remote learning during COVID.

“It is vital for educators to consider the varying barriers to virtual learning while making policy in response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” says abstract author Nelson Chow, a Princeton University student and Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics Research intern at Cohen Children’s Medical Center, in a media release. “It is especially important to have a particular awareness of the cultural and socioeconomic factors that may impact students’ outcomes.”

Researchers presented their findings during the American Academy of Pediatrics 2021 National Conference & Exhibition.

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