Written by Marissa S. Miles and the LBCC Civil Discourse Program
Could you ever have imagined that you’d have to be taking online college classes? For many, online classes can be exhausting and stressful. Due to the sudden shock of having to experience our education remotely, students are suffering from Zoom burnout, increased stress levels, isolation, and a lack of motivation.
One of the largest issues with online schooling is Zoom burnout. Nowadays, a lot of things are being offered via Zoom such as online classes, courses, events, family gatherings, social hours, and charity events. Zoom burnout is the idea of energy decreasing due to an overwhelming amount of your time being spent in constant video calls. According to National Geographic, “Humans communicate even when they’re quiet. During an in-person conversation, the brain focuses partly on the words being spoken, but it also derives additional meaning from dozens of non-verbal cues, such as whether someone is facing you or slightly turned away if they’re fidgeting while you talk, or if they inhale quickly in preparation to interrupt.” To summarize, losing the ability to read social cues properly on a screen is one of the biggest challenges in an online learning environment. Our brains are now using different stimuli than if we were in face-to-face classes.
A recent study by NBC News and Stanford University found that “56% of high school students report that their stress about school has increased.” Some other alarming statistics from this study include 32% of students reporting mental health as a major source of stress versus 26% pre-pandemic. Simply put, our brains are working harder than ever before due to an internet strain and a constant reading of social cues.
Another challenge students are facing is a sense of isolation and lack of motivation. Traditionally, one would attend class, make friends, and socialize inside and outside the classroom. However, with an online school format, in-person social interactions are little to non-existent. Referring back to the NBC News/Stanford University study, roughly 4 in 10 students report a decrease in effort and engagement with their learning. Moreover, about 5 in 10 say their relationships with their peers and teachers has decreased. You might be thinking, doesn’t Zoom allow more students to interact due to removal of obstacles such as commuting? That could be correct. However, since students are not as motivated as they usually are, the last thing they probably want to do is hop on another Zoom or video meeting.
It’s worth noting that there are some benefits we’re experiencing from our online education. Online classes allow us to educate ourselves at a time and place of our choosing. Additionally, more businesses are having employees work remotely. By 2025, an estimated 70% of the workforce will be working remotely at least five days a month. Our experiences with online classes is preparing us for this new reality.
Now, how exactly can we increase social interactions, decrease screen time, and avoid zoom fatigue?
Here are some suggestions:
● Turn off your zoom camera. Schedule phone calls if possible
● Alter the settings to speaker view rather than the gallery view
● Schedule breaks
● Stay organized (have a written planner or whiteboard)
● Eat healthy
● Take breaks
● Do not schedule back to back meetings
● Avoid multitasking such as having many internet windows up and working on other projects while in class
● Learn how you best handle stress
● Reach out to your friends through a phone call
● Join a group that is fun such as a book club or other hobby that you find of interest
● Go for a walk outside
Many students I’ve spoken to say they have learned some very valuable skills this past year. Personally, I’ve developed discipline, learned how to manage my time, and have become more assertive with my communication. I like to take walks and do yoga in between zoom sessions. I find that having a time buffer between zoom calls gives me time to clear my head.
What are some of your tips and suggestions for addressing these challenges? Are you interested in participating in this conversation and willing to share thoughts, opinions and stories? Please visit the Civil Discourse Program’s online whiteboard to continue this dialogue.