The COVID-19 pandemic gave rise to hybrid learning, a combination of in-person and online classes. While many schools adopted this scheme before the pandemic, quarantine protocols forced many institutions to launch the hybrid system.
Many students are new to this type of instruction and are finding it difficult to cope. Zoom fatigue, for instance, is an uphill battle and affects students, young and old. It’s taking a toll not only on their academic performance but also their mental well-being.
Everyone is hard-wired to communicate in person. When people talk with one another, the brain doesn’t focus completely on words.
Spoken communication is just a part of that tapestry. People also process information from dozens of non-verbal cues, such as the way the hands move, the eye contact, the smile, and even the way people inhale when they’re preparing to interrupt someone. Processing these clues is second nature to humans; it barely takes effort.
All these precious bits of information are lost during a video conference. No matter how fast your internet connection is, the small, square screen can’t fully capture all the non-verbal cues that face-to-face conversations can provide.
As such, it’s difficult for the brain to create a holistic picture of what’s happening. Students can no longer perceive the slight changes in the professor’s voice, while the professor cannot fully gauge if their students are still listening. The screen only frames the head and shoulders, so there’s no way to assess the person’s full body language.
To make matters worse, it’s all too easy to turn the camera off, completely removing all visual cues. The brain is working overtime to understand the communicative processes, and it’s taking a toll on the person.
Multi-person screens make things extra difficult. Believe it or not, people tend to focus on one thing or person at a time during group conversations. Take a British international school, for instance. In a lecture hall, the speaker gets much of the attention. During breaks, the whole clique listens to one person at a time. During class activities, students focus on their own work.
In contrast, video conferences split the attention and create even more confusion in the brain.
It’s not just the students who experience this next level of fatigue — even professionals find video meetings exhausting. A 2021 survey found that about 49% of professionals feel exhaustion because of Zoom fatigue.
Note that Zoom fatigue is not limited to Zoom; anyone who uses video conferencing platforms like Google Hangouts and Skype may feel the digital exhaustion.
Fight Zoom Fatigue
Fortunately, hybrid instruction involves limited online classes, but if students still feel bogged down by the seemingly endless digital interactions, here are a few things to help them combat the fatigue.
It seems as if people achieve more when they multitask. However, the brain, as mentioned earlier, could only focus on one thing. If you multitask, you don’t focus on two things at once; rather, your attention quickly shifts from one thing to another.
This affects your productivity negatively. People are much more effective if they focus on one thing at a time.
During Zoom meetings, students are better off sitting down in a quiet place and joining the class. Other activities, like cleaning the room, cooking, or eating, will only distract the student. Focusing on the online class is easier.
In-person classes allow for short breaks. Students may take a breather in the corridors or take a short walk before their next class. Online classes are different; some departments schedule back-to-back meetings.
As much as possible, students should replicate these small breaks to unload the stress of the previous class and prepare themselves for the next one. Students can’t walk outside, but they can stand up, rest their eyes, or stretch their legs.
Moreover, it’s best if students don’t jump onto their homework immediately after a long meeting. Taking a short break, eating a small snack, or tidying up the workstation should do the trick.
Turn Off the Self-View
Research shows that most people stare at themselves during video meetings instead of the speaker or the shared screen. This is because video calls are, as mentioned earlier, a high-stimuli environment that drains the participants. Looking at oneself helps relieve the stress and keeps people conscious that they’re part of the call.
However, looking at oneself takes the mind off of the task at hand. It disconnects the person and makes it even more difficult to focus on the class. As such, it’s better to turn the self-view off.
It will take years before the pandemic ends, and hybrid instruction might be here to stay. Students can use these tips to avoid Zoom fatigue and make the most of their online classes.