The potential effect of technology and distractions on undergraduate students’ concentration

Najya Attia, Lubna Baig, Yousef I. Marzouk, Anwar Khan


Background and Objectives: In the present era, it is difficult to keep the concentration of college students at its maximum potential during the class time, as there are many distractions that negatively impact students’ concentration and prevent optimal learning. Technologies such as laptops and cell phones have invaded the classroom, raising considerable concerns about their effects on college students’ attention in the classroom. Despite these concerns, no research has been done in Saudi Arabia on the effects of technology and other types of classroom distractions on students’ concentration. In the current study, we have attempted to identify students’ perceptions of major distractions in the classroom based on seventeen internally (self-produced) and twenty-four externally produced classroom situations.

Methods: The students participating in this study rated the degree to which each distraction interferes with their concentration on the class materials and their ability to learn. Data were collected through surveys of 265 students (66 and 199 students from medical and basic classes, respectively), including 97 females and 168 males 17–23 years of age from the academic years 2010 to 2014. A validated self-administered questionnaire was handed to the students in the classroom. The students were asked to report and rate the classroom distraction produced by 24 external internal distracters (Table-II), on a 5-point scale.

Results: The results revealed that ringing cell phones in the class were the most commonly reported electronic external distractor for 68% of students, and 21% of them reported being extremely distracted by this noise. Having an instructor who is difficult to understand was the most commonly reported external behavioral distractor for 75% of students, and 48% of them rated this as extremely distracting. Students talking in class were the most self-produced distractor for 72% of students; negatively impacting their concentration and ability to learn, and 42% of them rated it as an extreme distractor. Wearing clothing with unusual words, drinking and eating in the classroom were minimally distracting colleagues. Overall, distractions (internal and external) were more significant for fifth-year students than the other years at a p-value < 0.001.

Conclusion: Students believed that laptop and cell phone use in the classroom can effect their concentration and ability to learn. The students also felt that inappropriate behavior is a major distraction for students as well, and thus necessitates monitoring and improvement.


How to cite this:Attia NA, Baig L, Marzouk YI, Khan A. The potential effect of technology and distractions on undergraduate students’ concentration. Pak J Med Sci. 2017;33(4):860-865.   doi:

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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