Whether for education, fun, shopping or just surfing, the health and mental impacts of spending too much time online are anything but virtual. Symptoms like dry eyes, neck pain, brain fog and wrist strain are reminders to take a tech timeout.
The increase in online burnout comes at no surprise. The internet boom in the 1990s took us from textbooks and chalkboards to PDFs and digital classrooms. Thirty years later, a worldwide pandemic that separates us physically now drives us to work, learn, play and live digitally more than any other time in history. Started as an academic research project, the internet now engages more than 2 billion users globally.
At the April 2020 onset of the pandemic, nearly all adults reported that their children’s classes were affected with many moving to a form of distance learning. From a synchronous emergency remote format to hybrid learning or online learning courses, teachers and students were spending more time in front of a computer. With the additional exposure, certain benefits of online learning became apparent – independent learning skills, flexibility, access to courses and, of course, health and safety due to COVID.
Now, online learning is here to stay. So, it is important for both educators and students to avoid the strain of excessive computer time. Too much of any good thing can come with a price. For online over doers, that cost comes in many forms.
To avoid tech overload, here are some helpful tips to enjoy the best of virtual learning:
- Be mindful of your free time
Begin and end your day by taking care of yourself. When the alarm goes off, resist jumping right onto your smart phones. Ease into the morning with a stretch, mellow tunes, an inspirational quote … anything that allows you to set the pace of your day. At day’s end as you disconnect electronically, transition to home life with an evening walk, petting the dog or cat, or a cup of herbal tea.
- Vary your course content
Utilize different content types in your online courses such as dynamic video, photos, guest speakers – to engage students and provide a break for you. In addition, ensure that your course content directs students to learn off screen such as hands on lab assignments outside.
- Ensure courses have good structure
Take time, literally. Set an alarm for different segments of your class and your day. Computers can become a time vacuum as the hours fly by. Take control of your schedule by planning when you want to do certain activities before switching to another.
- Meditation and relaxation apps
As a teacher, you may only have a few moments of downtime during the weekdays as you balance busy school days with your family and personal life. The events of 2020 and 2021 have made it more important than ever to find ways to support your mental and emotional health. There is a saying, “You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes every day – unless you’re too busy; then you should sit for an hour.” The idea is that the times we feel most overwhelmed are the times we benefit the most from pausing to reflect, heal, and reset. Meditation and relaxation apps offer a quick and accessible way to destress through guided meditation sessions of varying lengths of time, as well as relaxing sounds and stories to help you focus, de-stress, or sleep.
- Find the best space for you
Create your space for learning. The beauty of virtual learning is its flexibility. That goes for your environment, too. While we all have access to different resources, try to give yourself a space designated to learning. Make sure family members know when you are engaged in your work to help minimize distractions.
- Set time to be away from screens
After a day of virtual classes, you’re probably tempted to engage in social media, tv, or other screens to decompress from schoolwork. Switching one electronic for another also can lead to burnout. Think about taking a break – a walk outside or shooting a few hoops – before spending more time on screen.
- Self Advocate
Self-advocacy means taking responsibility and initiative to get what you need – not waiting for others to act for you. For some students, this skill comes naturally, while for others it takes effort and practice. One way to be a strong self-advocate is to ask questions of your teacher. Communication is key – your teachers and staff cannot answer a question or solve a problem if they don’t know the question or problem exists! Let us know how we can help you.
- Set a Schedule
Create the perfect schedule for you. Another positive of online learning is the ability to set your own schedule. Decide the times your most geared up to learn and set your schedule accordingly. As long as you’re engaged in the coursework and meeting deadlines, it doesn’t matter if you are a morning bird or a night owl.
With a bit of effort and mindfulness, educators and students can avoid online learning burnout. In fact, a few simple steps can enhance the experience and position virtual learners for educational success in the years to come.