Zoom fatigue, online fatigue, digital fatigue. Whatever you call it, the phenomenon is real. And it’s one of the many challenges of teaching in a virtual environment. From technical difficulties, to distractions, to lack of engagement and social connection, online fatigue is another one to add to the list. But as we mature in this approach to learning, we are developing effective strategies to overcome these challenges.
By now we all know that transitioning from a face-to-face course to a live online course is not a simple cut and paste exercise. But many of us are still figuring out how to truly flourish in this new training environment.
Still figuring out how to overcome technical challenges. The right balance of face-to-face vs online in a blended learning course. The right software. And how to avoid online fatigue. But what exactly is online fatigue, and what’s causing it? And how is it affecting our ability to learn?
Before we go any further, let’s explore the meaning of online fatigue. What exactly is it?
The clue is in the title – simply put, online fatigue is fatigue caused by the overuse of online platforms. Fatigue from multi-tasking, from working harder to connect with each other in a virtual environment, from searching for lost context, and stress from watching ourselves and others on screen.
From not having separate work and home environments and from having more meetings than ever before because they’re more accessible online than in person. To eye strain and headaches caused by the bright lights of a computer screen. Not to mention the stress and anxiety of technical difficulties and having to troubleshoot them on your own at home, to the pressure of learning how to use new technologies.
There are many, many factors that contribute to online fatigue. For training providers, the biggest concern with online fatigue is the student’s ability to truly absorb information in this online environment. And ultimately, the effect of that on learning outcomes.
As a training provider, it’s near impossible to control factors such as our students’ hardware set-up, the number of online meetings they attend before a training course, or how many times they switch between tabs to read the news or check Facebook. But thankfully, there are many variables that we can assert some level of control over.
Let’s explore ways to help overcome Zoom fatigue in your online training course.
8 ways to overcome Zoom fatigue
1. Blended learning
Blended learning means providing course content in a variety of delivery formats; including face-to-face, live online webinar, quizzes, video, podcasts and surveys. Not only does it provide a richer learning experience than any one format on its own, it creates flexibility and the ability to cater to various learning styles. Ultimately reducing fatigue and increasing engagement.
If that’s not enough to convince you that blended learning is the future of training, then take advice from learners. A recent Salesforce Connected Student Report shows that students are favoring blended learning approaches.
The idea that entirely online learning could replace face-to-face learning has turned out to be false. Only 21% of respondents would prefer an all-online course, with twice as many students (43%) preferring a blended course. To find out more about blended learning, check out the Ultimate Guide.
2. Regular breaks
Research shows the magic number is somewhere between 60-90 minutes before students start to experience fatigue in a virtual training session.
Providing regular breaks helps give students and instructors alike a chance to reset. A simple five minute break allows them to stretch their legs, get a glass of water or just to switch off the camera.
Bruce Cooper from Springhouse Education and Consulting provides another perspective – with the typical model they use for their courses to help provide regular breaks in the content flow. The model consists of explanation, demonstration and then a hands-on exercise. Bruce says keeping that same model for virtual delivery works well, because it provides a content break by allowing students to do something hands-on.
3. Engaging content
Break up your live online webinars with examples, hands-on activities, videos and other interactive elements. Make use of the free tools that come with video conferencing software such as polls, voting, whiteboards and breakout rooms. Effective engagement can be as simple as asking learners a question and encouraging them to respond.
Paul Naybour, from Parallel Project Training, encourages training providers to do whatever they can to “make the subject come alive”, including using animation, video clips and live screen capture. “Don’t rely on a boring series of PowerPoint slides. And create a separate script to help you stay on topic and on time”, he says.
4. Collaboration tools
Solving one of the biggest challenges in virtual training, whiteboard collaboration tools allow students to collaborate, in real time. They’re used to illustrate concepts, reiterate key points, share ideas, explain, create mind maps, take notes and more.
Zoom has its own in-built, free, whiteboard tool. It’s useful for scenarios where learners and teachers only need basic whiteboard features, like drawing and annotation. But if you’re looking for more advanced features, many of the top whiteboard collaboration tools, such as Miro or Mural, now integrate with Zoom.
To find out more, check out this article on the top 8 whiteboard apps for training providers.
Gamification involves using game mechanics to enhance learning. It’s a sure-fire way to combat any kind of learning fatigue, and it doesn’t need a big budget. Think – point systems, badges, skill levels, challenges against other learners, social connection, quizzes and more. It helps to encourage, motivate and reward learners, and just create some good ol’ fun! It also helps to build a sense of community among learners, and allows them to connect with and challenge each other.
Just make sure you keep your target audience in mind, make the gamification relevant to them and their learning outcomes.
6. Micro learning
Micro learning takes blended learning to a whole new level – delivering short, focused bursts of content and activities to your learners. This type of learning provides even more flexibility for learners, caters to different learning styles, reduces Zoom fatigue, increases focus, and improves learning outcomes.
While this type of learning won’t be suitable for all training, it’s still worth reviewing your courses to see if micro learning can be incorporated in some areas. It can be as simple as adding a short quiz or a poll at the end of the hour during a live online training session.
7. Good learning design
From crunching a five-day classroom course into short live online sessions, creating engaging eLearning modules, designing complementary online resources, and fitting all of the pieces together seamlessly into a blended learning course is a big challenge. But a good learning designer will do all of the above, taking into consideration the needs of the learner, business goals, curriculum, and delivery methods to create a strategic approach to delivering training.
What’s more is training organizations who engage an experienced learning designer are more likely to increase learning outcomes, achieve their business goals and create an effective and sustainable blended learning strategy.
Best leave it to the experts then, hey?
8. Good tech set-up
There’s nothing worse than being on a Zoom webinar and experiencing lag or drop-offs from poor internet connections, squinting to see a presenter in bad lighting or a poorly positioned camera, being interrupted by barking dogs or noisy traffic, and having crackly audio caused by a cheap mic.
While you can’t control the technical set-up for your students, you can ensure your own set-up for online teaching is top notch. Having a good technical set-up for your virtual courses will help to reduce Zoom fatigue. For a full breakdown of the technical equipment you need for a successful virtual training session, check out this article on webinar equipment, software and technical tips.
Combating Zoom fatigue comes down to creating an engaging experience for your learners. While there’s a multitude of things in this list that you can draw upon to create an engaging training experience, there’s also some easy wins to engage your audience from much earlier on in their journey too.
Training Management Software, like Arlo, is designed to create a seamless experience for your learners. From the moment they first visit your website, to when they register for your course, to receiving confirmation emails and connecting to the live online webinar.
With on-brand course catalogs and filtering, learners will navigate to the right course on your website with ease. And the slick registration and check-out process is simple and quick, with flexible payment options.
Arlo also integrates with most video conferencing software, such as Zoom. Arlo will automatically schedule a session in Zoom, add the join links to confirmation emails, and track attendance.
See it all for yourself with a free 14-day trial.