Students who send text messages during lectures are much less likely to do well with their studies than the youngsters who stay focused on what their teachers are saying. According to new research, students who are highly “self regulated” and who therefore stay focused on the lesson – instead of texting their friends – are able to learn more and do better in exams and tests as a result. None of this is much of a surprise of course. Before SMS text messaging was invented – when I was a student – some of the more easily distracted individuals would pass notes amongst each other, or simply daydream. It’s probable that ever since people have been attending classes, some people have paid less attention than others.
A mobile phone, however, makes it easier to be distracted and is much more exciting than a note on a piece of paper. Plus it is interactive – it involves the user.
And that is why they are distracted from the lecture. People with low attention spans need greater amounts of interaction to keep their brain stimulated. So rather than telling students they should stop texting if they want to learn more, what we should be doing is telling lecturers they should be more engaging by increasing the amount of interactivity they have in their lessons. Interactive lessons are better for all students – the “self-regulated” and those with low attention spans. The poor performance of the in-class texters is more the fault of boring, poor lecturers, rather than the students themselves.
This is all a lesson for website development. Online, the typical attention span is measured in seconds – often fractions of a second. Apart from the fact that people want to know – instantly – that the web page they have arrived at is exactly what they were looking for, website visitors are keen to know what they can DO with a web page. When you visit Google you know what to do – type something in that search box. With Amazon you know what to do – click on something and buy it. With Facebook you instantly know what to do – discuss things with your friends. Each of these sites is immediately and obviously interactive and people pay attention to these sites in their millions.
However, many websites have little interaction built in and so rather like a boring lecturer they tend to get lower levels of engagement. Signals that people can comment, or that they can share your content, or that they can download things are all clues to interactivity and thereby help engagement. But if your website can increase levels of interaction, so much the better. For instance, if you run a finance site have some kind of calculator available, if you run a consultancy site, some kind of questionnaire will help and if you run a review site allowing others to add their own star ratings will help. In other words, seek to increase the amount of interaction with your website and you will raise the engagement. And if you do that, you’ll avoid people sending out text messages whilst reading your web pages..!
- Text Messaging in Class May Affect College Students’ Learning (socialpsychology.org)
- 4 Reasons Your Website Sucks (hubspot.com)
- Got a website or blog? Then behave like a publisher..! (grahamjones.co.uk)
Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist who studies the way people use the online world, in particular how people engage with businesses. He uses this knowledge to help companies improve their online connections to their customers and potential customers and offers consultancy, workshops, masterclasses and webinars. He also speaks regularly at conferences and business events. Graham is an award-winning writer and the author of 32 books, several of which are about various aspects of the Internet. For more information connect with me on Google+