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Feeling the burn of online learning

By Katrina Turchin

My “work from home” space // Photo by Katrina Turchin

Burnout. It comes from spending hours sitting in one spot, staring at your computer screen until your eyes burn. When your bones ache from not moving all day, and your fingers cramp from continuously typing. The work never seems to stop, and when it does, the opportunity to get ahead tempts you, encouraging you to keep going.

It’s true, working from home has many benefits. It limits the number of people you surround yourself with, thus limiting risk of exposure, and it gives you tons of spare time that you would have otherwise spent commuting back and forth to your workplace or school.

While working from home gives you more time to yourself, spend that extra time working even more.

For professionals, it’s the temptation of answering just one more email before finally clocking out two hours later. And for students, it’s the allurement of finishing all the required discussion posts early or writing an essay the night before it’s due. Burn out is different for everyone, but it’s plaguing most of us.

Students are especially victims of burnout or Zoom fatigue, known as the “tiredness associated with overusing virtual platforms of communication.”

Hours are spent sitting in front of computer screens watching professors struggle with technology, reading messages from classmates in the group chat, and listening to people continuously accidentally talk over each other. Then, more hours are spent after class working on assignment after assignment.

The sweet relief of finishing an assignment never comes because once you finish one paper, there are two more due the next week. The workload never seems to end and is especially heavier with online classes.

“I’ll spend hours staring at my screen and feel like I’m nowhere near getting everything done,” commented a MacEwan student on the university’s Student Experience Facebook page, which is not affiliated with the university.

People say that the pandemic has given us more time to live, more time to think, and more time to spend with our loved ones. All its given students are more time to do more work.

Not going to campus for classes and socializing face-to-face with classmates is also detrimental to students’ brain function. The commute to campus and moving from class to class keeps students energized and gives them a break from their screens. Without those breaks, there’s only screen time.

The other challenge students have, in some cases, is having to teach themselves an entire course. One method some professors are using for virtual teaching is posting pre-recorded lecture videos and PowerPoints online for students to watch in their own time. Some students enjoy this method because it gives them free rein to incorporate the course into their schedule. Others find this method to be complicating.

Another student on the MacEwan University Student Experience Facebook page says many of his classes only consist of textbook readings with no lectures, live or pre-recorded.

“I don’t see where all my money is going if I have to teach everything myself via reading the textbooks,” says the student.

Many students are also parents and/or work more than one job alongside being a full-time student. Finding the time to do their schoolwork is becoming increasingly challenging, especially with weekly assignments and discussion boards.

Melissa Bishop, a fourth-year journalism student at MacEwan University, is taking three online classes this semester, and is experiencing similar struggles. She says she only has one scheduled lecture and two ‘work at your own pace’ lectures.

 “When you procrastinate those classes and have no accountability in terms of presence, it’s super easy to fall behind and get stressed out,” says Bishop. 

Stress levels are high and now that the fall semester is almost over, I think it’s time to acknowledge that student burnout is a real thing induced by the pandemic. Over the winter break, take care of yourselves and ask your loved ones how they are doing. The best way to avoid burnout is to take a break. You deserve it.

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