Video call apps have defined the post-Corona world. From keeping in touch with friends and family as we self-isolate to joining work meetings when we can’t go into the office. Even university students have continued their studies by watching their classes live over Zoom meetings. This new form of learning extends into the next academic year as the University of Sheffield moves all lectures online and is limiting face-to-face teaching to small groups.

But how will this increase in online learning affect students?

Speaking to BBC Worklife, Associate Professor Gianpiero Petriglieri said that video calls require more attention than in person gatherings and this added effort to engage in the conversation causes what became to be known during lockdown as Zoom fatigue. During face to face interactions we can read body language and facial expressions to better engage and understand the conversation taking place, but during video calls this personal aspect is taken away. Zoom fatigue can leave you feeling drained for the rest of the day, reducing your ability to study or focus under the new, online, delivery method. As well as this, video calls and online lectures can impact mental health, says Professor Petriglieri. Contributing to a class can be daunting for those who suffer with mental health issues, such as anxiety, due to  pressure to answer questions combined with the feeling that everyone is watching you through your camera.

However, the negative impacts of online learning don’t stop at just Zoom meetings. In an interview with CBS news, New York Ophthalmology Professor, Dr Christopher Starr, described our eyes as muscles that can be strained with overuse. In the next academic year, it is likely that we will see more students suffering with migraines (a consequence of eye strain) because the more classes that are online, the longer the time we spend staring at our devices.

Although some students may find watching their classes from home easier than walking all the way to university, staying indoors more could lead to a vitamin D deficiency. Our bodies need vitamin D to strengthen our bones, teeth and immune system and it is produced as our bodies response to UVB exposure in sunlight. Those with mental health issues could also be affected by staying inside more. The charity, YoungMinds, found that young people with existing mental health issues felt worse during lockdown when they had to remain indoors. Despite the gradual return to normality, online learning could see more students studying from home still, with knock-on effects for mental health.

While online learning can pose many challenges it can also bring some positives, such as the ability to have a more flexible working day which is not confined to regular 9-5 working hours. As well as this, online learning can allow students to go through material at their own pace without having to keep up with the pace of a live lecturer. This is particularly useful for those that struggle with note-taking and focussing for extended periods of time.

Regardless of how the transition to online learning is affecting you, do keep in mind the services available to you as students: such as the 301 Academic Skills Centre and SAMHS, which exist to support students in study and in mental health should you find yourself struggling with any of the issues that stem from online learning.

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