Teaching Today's Students, Teaching with Technology

Teaching Strategies to help combat Zoom fatigue

by Christopher Grabau, Instructional Developer, Reinert Center

Using video platforms like Zoom has quickly become a standard way to connect with colleagues, friends, or family.  However, it is becoming apparent that video meetings can be both mentally and physically draining.  Often referred to as “Zoom fatigue,” these exhausting feelings can have an impact on our psychological and physiological well-being.  

Researchers at the Stanford Virtual Human Interaction Lab (VHIL) are investigating factors that may be contributing factors contributing to fatigue.  Their initial work, published in the journal of Technology, Mind, and Behavior, strives to articulate the kinds of fatigue we are experiencing (general fatigue, visual fatigue, social fatigue, motivational fatigue, and emotional fatigue) and presents a tool for measuring the phenomenon (Zoom Exhaustion and Fatigue (ZEF) scale). [Link]   

In the article published last month, author (and VHIL founder) Jeremy Bailenson (2021) proposes four technical conditions that may be causing Zoom fatigue.  Although more research is needed to measure the extent to which these conditions generate fatigue, they may serve as a good starting point to think about how prolonged videoconferencing may impact teaching and learning.  Below are Bailenson’s four proposed reasons why video conferencing is wearing us out.  Also included are a few pedagogical considerations to help you consider how best to prevent Zoom fatigue from impacting you and your students.  

Excessive amounts of close-up eye contact is highly intense:

What to do about it:  

  • Consider using a pre-recorded, asynchronous video messages to replace a meeting.
  • Consider making meetings shorter.  30 minutes instead of an hour.  Not every meeting needs to be an hour.
  • Encourage attendees to use neutral backgrounds or wallpapers.  

Seeing yourself during video chats constantly in real-time is fatiguing

What to do about it.

  • In Zoom, hide self-view [Link].  Others will still see you but you will feel less self-conscious during meetings.
  • Conduct camera optional meetings.  Encourage students to use Zoom’s nonverbal controls to encourage interaction.  
  • Give attendees permission to turn their cameras off or instruct attendees to turn on at specific periods of time.  

Video chats dramatically reduce mobility

What to do about it.  

  • Designate “meeting-free” times during your day or week.  Mark them on your calendar and stick to it.
  • Change your scenery – use a laptop or cell phone to attend some meetings in a different location. Allow attendees to do the same.
  • Set a timer to remind you to take frequent breaks by standing up and walking around.   

Cognitive load is much higher in video chats

What to do about it.

  • Keep an agenda and stay on topic.  Make the agenda accessible for attendees.  Provide an update or meeting agenda ahead of time by using a Google Doc or asynchronous video.  
  • Build in breaks.  Give students a chance to grab a coffee, have a quick snack, stretch, or take a bathroom break.
  • Break class meetings into chunks: break out video meeting with work, time, “camera optional time, or audio only segments of a class. 
  • Avoid multitasking.  Turn off notifications on your computer and close any open application.  Not only will this prevent multitasking, but it will free up computer resources.

While these suggestions are just a starting point, take time to think about how technology like videoconferencing can have an impact on student learning, content delivery, and community building.  

If you would like to talk with someone about teaching strategies to combat Zoom fatigue, please consider scheduling a confidential consultation with someone from the Reinert Center [Link]

Reference

Bailenson, J. N. (2021). Nonverbal Overload: A Theoretical Argument for the Causes of 

Zoom Fatigue. Technology, Mind, and Behavior, 1(3). doi.org/10.1037/tmb0000030

Fauville, Geraldine and Luo, Mufan and Queiroz, Anna C. M. and Bailenson, Jeremy N. and 

Hancock, Jeff, Zoom Exhaustion & Fatigue Scale (February 15, 2021). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3786329 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3786329

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