Beth Ryan is Associate Professor of Instruction in the Business and Entrepreneurship department at Columbia College Chicago
I am increasingly more fatigued after teaching synchronous online classes and spending so much time in Zoom meetings. Was there something wrong with me? I always felt energized after being with students in a physical classroom. So, I began researching and it turns out this phenomenon of “Zoom fatigue” is real.
Researchers are exploring the neuropsychological effects like tiredness, worry, and burnout. According to A Neuropsychological Exploration of Zoom Fatigue by Jenna Lee, M.D., this new fatigue brought on by the global pandemic is real and impacting 300 million people daily from overuse of virtual platforms for communication.
I felt relieved and validated to know that I was not alone. I was also nervous as I now spend 100% of my work life on a computer. These virtual communication platforms are my primary form of socialization throughout this period.
The reality is that the world has changed dramatically and we need to be prepared for continued uncertainty. As an educator, I have committed to helping students overcome obstacles and learn no matter what mode of communication is available to us. Given that learning is a dynamic process, I can’t assume that I have all the answers. So I asked students to weigh in about their experiences with online classes. Below are a few tips from students on minimizing fatigue for themselves.
What can students do to prevent burnout?
- “During class breaks get up, walk around, and stretch instead of sitting still and scrolling through social media sites.”
- “Try to find time for naps during my day to get more sleep.”
- “Get dressed, do my makeup, and hair. I feel like I’m doing more than just sitting at a computer. It helps with self-satisfaction and I feel more happy/awake.”
- “Communicate with my professors outside of Zoom class time.”
According to a recent article in Inside Higher Ed, Zoom fatigue is a recognized condition. This is another point of validation for me as it can be isolative when I am not on a campus with other colleagues and students. The conditions of the pandemic may be outside of my control, yet my mindset is something I can control. I adopted a growth mindset, and as Dr. Dweck’s scientific research shows, it can lead to increased engagement and achievement. The following are some strategies I have been exploring lately that students are enjoying.
What can teachers do to help students with zoom fatigue?
- Create more space for questions and silence. Not every minute needs to be filled with talking.
- Always start with the assumption that students are interested in learning and engage them by supporting different ways of communicating. Encourage students to use the chat and the reactions functions in Zoom, participate in polls, and allow cameras to be turned off at times. These strategies accommodate students’ different ways of interacting and engaging.
- Check in with students by using mood polls at the beginning of class where students can pick how they’re feeling from a list. They can also enter responses into the chat, which fosters more introspection from students and creates a safe space to share. This helps me understand where the class is and guides how I approach the topics for the day.
- Take more frequent and short breaks. Play a guided meditation or classical music during the break as an option for students.
- Stand and stretch together for 30 seconds after every 30 minutes of screen time.
- Ask students to lead small class discussions and bring in current event scenarios to discuss.
If anything stands out as a lesson this year for me it’s that things are always changing, so let curiosity lead you and keep experimenting!
Looking for more strategies on preventing zoom burnout and fostering connections in your course? Watch the recording from our Fall Empowered Educator Online Conference.