As USC begins the spring semester online, students and staff alike continue to struggle with managing college and home life. Zoom fatigue has become very common during this time of online school. Zoom fatigue can be defined as feelings of exhaustion or feeling drained during or after a Zoom meeting. Along with this fatigue, it is also common to become restless in lectures and experience an inability to stay attentive during class.
Zoom fatigue can feel different for each individual, but it is an inevitable outcome of fully remote online instruction. It can be worse during longer lectures that are not as interactive and are content heavy because students have to focus more intently on what is being said without the help of peers. In addition, being in a Zoom room for more than an hour hearing a professor talk for the majority of the time can cause tiredness.
At USC, there are courses that run for two hours or more, and although students choose their courses for each semester, more often than not, every student has at least one course that is longer than one hour. For example, some General Education requirement classes go on for more than an hour and every student is required to take up to eight GE courses over the course of their academic career.
Although these courses would have been the same length in person, in-person learning makes it easier to be attentive in class, since it is in an academic setting with everyone physically in the same room. Online, students have to sit through classes in their room, kitchen or other rooms in their house, which can be a more distracting environment than a classroom at USC. And unlike in-person courses, online classes are solely online so students lose the verbal and social nature of being fully in-person. This is a major cause of Zoom fatigue.
The Zoom fatigue students feel during this time is partially because of the length of the courses. Although the length of courses are set for a reason — that time is needed to complete the lesson plans of the professors — and shouldn’t be changed, the University should look at ways to combat Zoom fatigue for their longer courses.
Last semester, some professors who taught classes that were longer than an hour would split the time of their lecture with a 10 minute break in between. This break was as much for the students as it was for the professors teaching the class.
Another tool was to split the class so that half of it was a lecture and the other half was breakout rooms with students discussing the content. This second solution may remedy some of that lack of social interaction students are experiencing during these times. Both tools helped students engage with the content and combated the tiresome task of sitting in class, listening to the professor speak for hours on end.
USC has tried to keep students engaged outside of classes during this time by hosting online events, coffee talks and mentoring meetings. The University should also consider how to keep students engaged within their classes.
A break will allow students and professors alike to stretch, grab a snack or use the restroom so that they can remain attentive throughout the remainder of the class. Providing a break or finding other alternatives to combat Zoom fatigue should be implemented by the USC community across disciplines.