Does the shift to online learning affect students?
Being a student comes with an innate set of challenges, but the uphill battle of surviving student life has been rendered even more perplexing by the shift to an online setting. Not only do students have to successfully maneuver through the otherwise expected intricacies of managing their time, completing piles of assignments, preparing for exams, and balancing their social lives; but now they also have to do it all through the virtuality of a screen. Carrying on an academic life from behind an electronic device has put in question sermons about reduced screen time, which were given to students of all ages in the pre-pandemic era. They face a disconnect from reality, making it difficult to practice concentration and place any undivided focus on tasks at hand. While online learning may have some benefits, it is a fact for almost all students that online learning has taken already difficult things and made them seemingly impossible.
In the way education is delivered during modern times and since institutions are mostly seen as a way to produce professionals, students are laden with stress about grades, exams and about their futures. Times are trying for individuals from all walks of life, but student anxiety has gotten especially worse in an online setting for an array of reasons.
Online learning anxiety
The first and foremost reason for this anxiety to have crept up on students is because for a lot of them the shift to an online academic realm was sudden. Education as they had known it for a very long time changed completely, and almost overnight students were expected to adapt to what has now been deemed the new normal. Online meetings and exams came at the cost of isolation from friends and classmates. This isolation from peers has also had an adverse effect on the mental health of students, which Takalam Online Counselling offers counselling and therapy for.
Another significant reason is rather obvious, which comes in form of an influx of increased screen time. With most students (and individuals, in general) confined indoors, both work and recreation were fulfilled at the peril of screen time. If one wanted to attend classes, it was online. And if one wanted to take a break from those classes, it was also online. Consequently, the only time students were not glaring at a screen was when they were asleep. This drastic skyrocketing of the amount of time students spend on screen has taken a toll on the mental as well as physical health of students. It has caused issues such as perceived sleep problems, anxiety and depression.
Although institutions have resorted to video calls as a substitute for face-to-face classes, they can be extremely mentally tiring. Zoom exhaustion has been labelled as a legitimate issue when it comes to attending nonstop classes. The primary reason for this distinct form of exhaustion is that students are mostly forced to process nonverbal communication such as tone of the instructor’s voice, body language and gestures. When students are unable to effectively process such cues, due to the limitations of the medium or internet issues, the class lands in awkward silences or reduced interaction. As a result of this, communication between mentor and mentee is broken.
It would be a rebuke to this discourse if connectivity issues were not given enough importance. How many times has it happened with you or someone you know that their Wi-Fi acts up in the middle of an important exam or work meeting? As in the case with students, who are told connection issues are not a valid enough reason for late submissions of exams or assignments, internet glitches can be a major source of anxiety.
Wellness and mental health in online learning
It would be fair to say that teachers and institutions that alter their expectations from students – given that almost nothing is the same anymore – will be doing a favor to students who struggle to grasp any remnants of what education used to look like. We will all come out of this stronger if we vow to take care of one another, which includes all students, to the best of our abilities.