Is online education and the use of video for lessons doing us any good? The year 2020 has turned everyone’s life upside down, and students are no exception. As a result, you had to stay at home 24/7, attend classes via Zoom and spend hours in front of a screen. You had to adjust to this new normal within days.
Of course, this rapid and drastic change has left its mark on the mental health of students. How could he not? But what effects has online education had on mental health, exactly? Let’s take a look at five key elements.
1. Students worry more about their academic performance
Due to this huge disruption, almost half of the students, 44%, to be exact, said they were worried about staying enrolled in college. Why? Their school results have dropped sharply.
The reasons for this decline vary. Some struggled to stay motivated to study. Others found themselves disadvantaged because of their income level. It’s hard to stay a productive learner if you don’t have a stable internet connection or reliable devices.
So, if you are one of those students who are worried about their academic future, you are not alone. Keep in mind that it’s never too late to change things. For example, you can pay someone to write your essay to resolve the situation. If specific mental health issues are preventing you from being productive, you should also work to overcome them.
2. Motivation just got harder to find
Loss of motivation has been a refrain in the coverage of online education by psychology experts. There may be several reasons behind this, according to the American Psychological Association:
- Social interaction and connection fuel motivation to learn. Just compare the work on a group project and a solo project;
- Knowing that teachers care about your progress is important to staying engaged;
- Online assignments may just not be challenging enough, especially in applied fields.
3. Zoom fatigue is now a thing
No one has heard of – and very few have experienced – what is now known as “Zoom Fatigue”. Have you ever felt exhausted after attending classes on Zoom all day? It is precisely that. And yes, you can experience it even if it doesn’t look like you’ve had to experience the same in a video conference.
This particular type of fatigue has two underlying causes:
- Information overload. There is too much information given to students. It makes them feel overwhelmed or disconnected;
- The similarity. The learning activities remain the same. Additionally, students must sit in front of a screen throughout the day.
4. Social isolation caused psychological distress
Online communication, unfortunately, has not proven to be an adequate substitute for in-person interaction. Text messages and emails do not transmit tone of voice or other non-verbal cues. Calls and video conferences can, but they still have their limitations. Additionally, students thrive on having a sense of community and belonging. Maintaining both proved to be a challenge after learning completely online.
Lack of social interaction meant increased feelings of loneliness and isolation and loss of motivation. As a result, levels of psychological distress soared. Symptoms of anxiety, stress and depression have become more common than before the pandemic.
5. More students show symptoms of anxiety, stress and depression
More … than twice as many young people in the United States reported high levels of anxiety and stress in March 2021, similar to the months before the arrival of COVID-19. Young people are also more likely to anxiety and stress than adults.
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More students also experienced or continue to experience symptoms of depression. According to a survey, 52% of students said they felt hopeless. 39% said they were severely depressed.
As for the why of this trend, the reasons vary here too:
- Uncertainty about the future;
- Potential or actual loss of income;
- The risk of becoming ill or losing a loved one due to COVID-19;
- Lack of social interaction;
- Unhealthy study-life balance;
- Inability to do things they enjoy (eg going to the gym).
How to deal with mental health issues
There is nothing to be ashamed of if you can identify with one or more of the mental health issues listed above. Millions of others are going through or have had a similar experience. Mental health is no different from physical health: it needs to be addressed when there is a problem. It won’t go away on its own, just like a broken leg won’t heal properly without a cast.
Here are some recommendations for overcoming a mental health challenge:
- Acknowledge the problem. Name your emotions and feelings. Ask yourself what causes them. You can find self-reflection guides and quizzes online.
- reach out to someone. You can share your difficulties with someone who will not judge you and who will listen to you.
- Consider consulting. Talking to a specialist will lead to more fruitful results. Your college probably has a specialist you can talk to for free.
- Create healthy habits. A healthy diet, enough sleep and exercise can go a long way. Consider creating your self-care routine and practicing mindfulness.
All is not dark and catastrophic, however…
Not everyone has suffered from the new normal in education. Some students actually felt better studying online rather than in person. One study found that college students with pre-existing mental health issues did not report a deterioration in their mental well-being. Instead, either remained at the same level or improved.
Online education has also been a positive learning experience for students who are bullied or have trouble socializing with their peers. Staying at home increased feelings of psychological safety. This allowed them to become more productive. Finally, online education also meant that students could become more flexible in their learning. They could finally learn completely at their own pace and in their own way. They could also devote more or less time to specific topics depending on their needs.
Everyone had to switch to online education practically overnight. No wonder it was stressful for students and teaching staff. And, unfortunately, online education has not proven to be a good alternative for most students. Fortunately, most colleges and universities have already transitioned to blended learning. This format combines both online and in-person learning, bringing together the best of both worlds.
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