These days, all of us are familiar with Zoom fatigue: exhaustion from excessive technology use that makes one want to sleep for weeks or at the very least escape from our devices for a while. Everyone seems to be facing it, and students’ version is online learning fatigue. According to Healthline, critical signs of this sort of burnout can include:
Frustration and irritability
Muscle tension, fatigue, and insomnia
It takes a toll on mental well-being. Red flags that signal online fatigue may occur when students struggle to set boundaries, have lost excitement about the work, and perhaps have even stopped showing up altogether. A study found that absenteeism in students is growing, shaped by the pandemic, and even online attendance is lacking.
There have been some positive aspects to the world of online opening up, like using education technology tools online and in-person, allowing access to more students across the globe, and offering varied ways of learning to students whose needs may differ.
Still, the reality is that many teachers and students are burnt out from constantly being plugged in. What can be done to curb online learning fatigue? If you teach online, hybrid, or even use technology in the classroom, these tips may be helpful for you.
1. Add a social element
Give students opportunities to partner up and interact with one another. You can use the breakout room function if you're an online teacher. If in-person, students will be glad to have some in-person social engagement after such a long time at home. A study found, “When social interaction becomes part of the classroom dynamics, classrooms become active places.” Some teachers use Labster virtual labs on a big screen at the front of their classroom and invite students to collaborate on where to click next and how to answer quiz questions!
2. Use gamification
According to a 2021 report from the Entertainment Software Association, two-thirds of adults and three-quarters of kids under 18 play video games weekly. This high engagement makes for a great opportunity in the classroom because gamification can make tasks exciting that might otherwise be boring. Not only is learning more fun, but it can increase productivity. Labster virtual labs offer a unique way of gaming: students are given a challenge and have to solve it via a storyline. A study found that students learn more than 2x as much when they have access to Labster virtual labs as they do with traditional instruction on its own.
3. Promote breaks
Students don’t need to be on the verge of a breakdown to take a break. Teachers and instructors can encourage them to take some time for themselves. Psychology Today wrote that “good breaks can reduce mental fatigue, boost brain function, and keep us on task for longer periods.” Just as muscles grow and become stronger with rest, so does the mind.
4. Encourage students to hide self-view
Part of online learning fatigue is the Zoom portion: students constantly have to watch themselves. Instead of paying attention in class, they wonder why their hair looks funny. It can be distracting and exhausting. Seeing reflections can help students know how much they’re emoting during class, but is it worth it? Try encouraging them to take a break and see how it goes.
5. Offer microlearning
Microlearning is teaching in short bursts to maximize attention and learning. You can offer shorter videos or lectures to capture their attention, then give them a break by providing another education format. Microlearning is another reason virtual labs are helpful; Labster now has many shorter virtual labs in the 10-15 minute range. These are ideal for focusing on a specific skill or concept!
6. Vary teaching methods
You already know that variety is helpful, but you may be short on time or feel uninspired about an alternative. It’s good to change your lesson plans to have them include activities, lectures, videos, and even something like virtual labs. There are various ed-tech tools you can use to make learning more exciting and accessible. With Labster, we offer a Community Campus as a resource for teachers around the world to connect on methods and experiences. If you don’t have access to this, perhaps a Facebook group where you can connect with other teachers would be useful.
Hopefully, some of these tips will help both you and your students address the online learning fatigue you inevitably face. It’s not just students who feel this, but teacher burnout is real, too.