The Impact of Hybrid Learning on College Students' Attention


  • Kristen Vitolo University of California, Berkeley
  • Linda Isaac, Ph.D. University of California at Berkeley



hybrid learning, college students' attention span, electroencephalography, online learning, remote learning, in-person classes, online classes, hybrid learning during Covid-19 pandemic, neuroimaging, EEG, synchronous online class, in-person vs. online class


Hybrid Learning is being adopted at many universities in order to accommodate the evolving Covid-19 pandemic guidelines. It combines in-person learning with online learning to give students flexibility for how they would like to consume their college education. Prior to the pandemic, college courses at the University of California at Berkeley were conducted primarily in-person with a few larger courses recording their lectures for re-watching online. At the peak of the pandemic beginning in March 2020 when all in-person classes were halted and moved online, students were required to quickly adapt to remote learning. As the pandemic restrictions began to ease by Fall 2021, an increasing number of courses were offered in a hybrid learning format. However, there is a lack of research in comparing the attention spans of students who join the same class in person versus synchronously online. In this research design article, I examine existing research on students’ attention spans during exclusively in-person lectures or exclusively online lectures. From a cognitive science perspective, I seek to explore how we can utilize electroencephalography (EEG), a non-invasive neuroimaging device, to measure and compare the attention levels of students who attend a lecture in person and students who attend the same lecture online. Through this study, professors of hybrid classes may use the data acquired through neuroimaging in order to test and find techniques that can help them improve engagement with their students participating synchronously online.


Download data is not yet available.


Metrics Loading ...

Author Biographies

Kristen Vitolo, University of California, Berkeley

Regents' and Chancellor's Scholar

Data Science, B.A. Expected in 2024

Linda Isaac, Ph.D., University of California at Berkeley

Teaching Professor|Clinical Neuroscientist,

Cognitive Science Department at University of California, Berkeley

References or Bibliography

CBS San Francisco. (2021, October 4). UC Berkeley announces all spring 2022 classes will be in-person regardless of size. CBS San Francisco. n-person-regardless-of-size/.

Cheng, J. (2007, October 4). UC Berkeley puts hundreds of academic lectures on YouTube. Ars Technica.

Chiang, HS., Hsiao, KL. & Liu, LC. (2018). EEG-Based Detection Model for Evaluating and Improving Learning Attention. J. Med. Biol. Eng. 38, 847–856.

Chua EC-P, Fang E, Gooley JJ (2017). Effects of total sleep deprivation on divided attention performance. PLoS ONE 12(11): e0187098.

Eggers, A. (2020, September 17). Battling against student attention span in online learning. ACE Tutoring.

Elder, A. (2013). College Students' Cell Phone Use, Beliefs, and Effects on Their Learning. College student journal, 47, 585-592. fs%2C-and-on-Elder/8356eb9d08a333f36adf6518d5093ef97a588def.

Electroencephalogram (EEG). Johns Hopkins Medicine. (n.d.). ram-eeg#:~:text=They%20do%20not%20produce%20any,be%20involved%20during%2 0the%20test.

Geri, N., Winer, A. & Zaks, B. (2017). A Learning Analytics Approach for Evaluating the Impact of Interactivity in Online Video Lectures on the Attention Span of Students. Interdisciplinary Journal of E-Learning and Learning Objects, 13(1), 215-228. Informing Science Institute.

Goundar, Sam. (2014). The Distraction of Technology in the Classroom. Journal of Education and Human Development. 3. 211-229. _the_Classroom.

Guijosa, C. (2019, March 1). Distractions: An obstacle to online education - observatory: Institute for the future of education. Observatory. Retrieved December 11, 2021, from Gupta S., Kumar P. (2021) Attention Recognition System in Online Learning Platform Using EEG Signals. In: Bora P.K., Nandi S., Laskar S. (eds) Emerging Technologies for Smart Cities. Lecture Notes in Electrical Engineering, vol 765. Springer, Singapore.

Hess, A. J. (2021, July 29). As college students head back to class, some say benefits of online learning should not be forgotten. CNBC. dnt-be-abandoned.html.

Isaac, L. (2021, October 4). Attention [PowerPoint].

Liu, N.-H., Chiang, C.-Y., & Chu, H.-C. (2013). Recognizing the Degree of Human Attention Using EEG Signals from Mobile Sensors. Sensors, 13(8), 10273–10286. MDPI AG.

Oatley, K., & Johnson-Laird, P. N. (2014). Cognitive approaches to emotions. Trends in cognitive sciences, 18(3), 134–140.

Raps, R. (2021, August 27). UC Berkeley community expresses concerns over no hybrid classes. The Daily Californian. o-hybrid-classes/.

Sherman, N. (2020, June 2). Zoom sees sales boom amid pandemic. BBC News.

Wilson, K., & Korn, J. H. (2007). Attention during Lectures: Beyond Ten Minutes. Teaching of Psychology, 34(2), 85–89.



How to Cite

Vitolo, K., & Isaac, Ph.D., L. (2023). The Impact of Hybrid Learning on College Students’ Attention. Journal of Student Research, 11(4).



Review Articles