By: Jane Hwang
Ever since the beginning of quarantine and online classes in Spring 2020, students and professors have been experiencing a new form of exhaustion known as Zoom fatigue. According to Dr. Marlene Maheu, Co-Founder and President of the Coalition for Technology in Behavorial Science, in her article, “Zoom Fatigue: What You Can Do About It”, Zoom fatigue is defined as copious amounts of stress and exhaustion that people feel after being in video meetings for a long period of time. Dr. Maheu states that the main causes of Zoom Fatigue are maintenance of good posture for the camera, lack of non-verbal gestures for indications, small screens, inability to temporarily leave for a break, and self-consciousness on voice and appearance over video chat.
As Pacific transitioned to an online learning format for the Spring and Fall semester of 2020, students and faculty had various experiences with Zoom, often new and unprecedented. Diego Paez, Psychology ’22, believes his hectic school schedule has lead to Zoom fatigue, affecting his ability to concentrate and his sleep schedule. “My concentration is not at work. Being in front of a screen for a long time doesn’t help with sleeping because it keeps you from doing so,” says Paez. “It’s really hard to look at a screen and think or read because I get a lot of headaches, especially when I don’t have blue light.”
Paez also notes that he lacks motivation for completing school work, since the overload of virtual learning is “mentally draining.” Additionally, with an increase of time spent on the internet, distractions are easy to come by and can be more entertaining than the hours of school work.
Although Zoom fatigue has been affecting students across the board, many have come to enjoy the benefits of online learning. Kristel Tabzon, Philosophy ’24, doesn’t really mind having to do everything online because of two main reasons: pacing and mental health.
“I enjoy classes because I am able to go at my own pace. I’ve always been somewhat of an independent learner and being able to not rush while taking notes helps me take in a lot of the information with ease. I am also able to do my school work anywhere as long as I have internet access, this is useful whenever I have to travel.” She also talks about how virtual classes have allowed her to manage her social anxiety. “The online classes have affected my mental health in a good way. I am in my own home and it is not mandatory to show my face in most of my classes which helps a lot with my social anxiety.”
Professors at Pacific also have been dealing with the transition to virtual learning and spoke about their experiences. Dr. Matthew Normand, Chair of the Psychology Department at Pacific, discusses the difficulties of teaching online. He mentions how instructors “can do many things that they do in the classroom such as lecturing, assigning groups and homework, and answering students’ questions, but it takes more planning and time to execute small classroom activities.” For example, Dr. Normand says that with on-campus classes, it is easier for teachers to just stop class to arrange people into groups for projects. However, on Zoom, it takes more time to split people into groups because teachers have to decide how many per breakout room, and if they want to have specific pairs, they must plan in advance. Teachers also lose the ability to hear everyone’s thoughts and keep track of time. Dr. Normand also added that he experiences difficulty monitoring student activity with the virtual learning format. He must multitask by watching other students’ screens, the chat box, and the waiting room to make sure no students are left behind.
On top of that, he adds that people might feel Zoom fatigue because of self-consciousness. “There’s that little screen right in front of you where you’re constantly seeing what you look like and the faces that you’re making and you don’t do that in a live meeting; you can just pay attention to other people without being self-conscious of what you’re doing.”
Dr. Jessica Grady, an associate professor of the Psychology Department, also brings into light another issue with online classes, which is grading.
“When grading an exam for my students, I would normally provide handwritten feedback on their handwritten submissions and instead I have to figure out ways to organize my grading so that I can provide the feedback in an online, electronic form so it required rethinking of the simple things that I do all the time.”
According to Dr. Grady, the faculty often try to meet with the university’s Center for Teaching and Learning to discuss ideas for student engagement and care. The Center would read over outside researchers’ papers, notes, or articles while learning about the online platforms used by the university and relay that information to the faculty so they could incorporate and adjust their teaching for the benefit of students.
Even though being online for a long period of time can affect people mentally, there are some ways that people can lessen their exhaustion. These tips are provided by both students and faculty listed in this article:
● Invest in some blue light glasses or have a blue light screen
● Lessen screen time on the weekends
● Take a 15 minute break, whether it’s walking outside or stretching
● Take a lunch break outside if possible
● Find ways to be active, such as yoga or running
● Lower screen brightness