You say your goodbyes as you click end meeting for all. You’ve spent the entire day inside the house, most of the time seated on a chair and with minimal walking to do only the essentials.
Even though you did not brave the public transit nor the heat of the sun today, did not switch classrooms, and did not need to go up endless flights of stairs, you feel more drained than ever.
Are online classes really more tiring than face to face ones? If yes, why is it so?
Online teaching is a new format that the world is still learning to work with. While you may have your younger teachers who have been able to easily adapt to a virtual classroom and who can integrate the use of social media in making interesting lectures, some of your older, tenured professors may not have the same experience.
Generation Z has been dealing with and creating online content since they were very young. But the Millenials and older generations who have received education in a traditional setting may not know how to set-up a Google classroom or how to manage their Edmodo teacher accounts.
Adapting to new technology is not easy for all. Some topics like Mathematics and Science need a lot of hands-on learning to emphasize the importance of the topic, and for the teachers to get reassurance that the students have really understood the content. You can’t properly teach a student how to use a microscope if you’re only relying on videos and virtual representations of it.
This also goes the same way for humanity-based subjects that rely on teachers as facilitators more than lecturers who supply all the information to the class. Online discourse, especially via online meetings, is more challenging because professors now have to request their students to unmute themselves. They may even single out specific students if they want a genuine discussion to happen.
This can take up much time, so interactive questions end up being just more rhetorical ones instead. It can take months before a certain class finds its “groove” and balance into adjusting the dynamics of an interactive virtual classroom.
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Missing Non-Verbal Communication
Our feelings and attitudes are heavily conveyed by non-verbal signals such as facial expressions, the tone and pitch of the voice, gestures, posture, and the distance between the communicators. In face-to-face interactions, you process these cues automatically, while giving your primary attention to the speaker at the same time.
However, it’s another case with video chats. You need to work harder to process non-verbal cues. Paying more attention to them consumes a lot more energy. There is also the added dissonance of your minds adjusting to the feeling of being in the same room/ space even though you are physically not. Those conflicting feelings and internal struggles will take a toll on you.
Most people also rely on non-verbal cues to make emotional judgments, such as assessing whether a person is lying or being honest. Communication nuances such as sarcasm, passive aggression, and jokes are harder to convey through a screen.
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Even silence is important. Silence in real-life conversation creates a natural rhythm and enables a fluid give-and-take of speaking time between communicators. But in a video call, silence can make you anxious about the technology. Is he freezing or does he just not have any reactions to what I just said? Can they hear my speech or have I been disconnected? Even a 2.25-second delay in responding online can immediately affect people’s perceptions of whether the person talking is less friendly or focused.
You know how the usual online meetings go about, there is frustration with people turning their microphones on and off, lagging connections, and a lot of background noise. Some of your classmates might even have on a meme Zoom virtual background or you can hear pet sounds in the background while they’re reciting.
There are a lot of things that could go wrong that are not within your power. Your internet connection might lag at the exact moment you’re taking an online quiz or your laptop just suddenly starts to malfunction and hang in the middle of class. You might even wake up a little bit later and think you’re just in time to log in to synchronous online class but just then your operating system decides to update.
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It doesn’t even end there. Your pdf files might not be downloadable or the assignments you send in get corrupted. Your school might not even have enough resources to support distance learners so you’re forced to track down supplementary reading material online yourself because the topics they assumed were covered last school year weren’t cause of the previous lockdown.
It’s Harder To Make Connections
One of the benefits of going to school is being able to meet and connect with various people who can help you throughout your entire life. Friendships, mentorships, and networking can all come from one’s academic encounters but is that still the case with online classes?
Online degrees can be less personable. You can go through multiple synchronous classes without ever getting to really know anyone since you all just boxes on a screen. The chit-chat you used to have with your seatmate while waiting for the lecturer isn’t feasible when the Zoom host can see all the messages in class.
Now, it’s either you have enough confidence to find them and message them on social media or you just see their Zoom names and leave it at that.
Without the emotional support of other people- your seatmate who you can joke around with when you think the professor’s being annoying or hearing the same outcries from your peers when everybody’s too tired to make that 11:59 PM deadline tonight, you just feel even more alone and left out. Studying amidst a pandemic is hard enough as it is since you’re worried about public health and safety while you’re memorizing the periodic table.
Try to keep in touch with at least one good friend on a weekly basis. Even if you guys don’t go to school together, at least you can have a moment to vent out and feel human connection.
No Clear Home/School Boundaries
Having different locations for school and home establishes a mental boundary that allows you to chill off and relax at home while stay focused and more professional in school. Since you no longer leave the house and your bedroom may also be your current workspace, your brain is in a disarray on whether to be in study-mode or slack-off mode.
Moreover, your natural home chores and responsibilities are forced to be absorbed into your school time. If after you wake up, you play Among Us for 2 games, watch a short YouTube video, and then watch a 10-minute video you need for class right before you enter the Zoom meeting for that subject, you’ve only done 10 minutes of work.
If your “classroom” is the same device you use for online shopping, tweeting, and flirting on Instagram, those things will be big distractions. If you stop to do the dishes or answer the door to sign for a package, then that’s time not spent “in class” and are treated as breaks even though you neither feel rested nor relaxed for doing them.
Even if you spend 2 and ½ hours on course work, that isn’t enough if you’re enrolled in 12 units and need to spend time doing textbook readings, research, and infographics for your other classes.
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