In the Spring of 2020, universities across the nation emailed college students and professors that spring break would start early because of the nationwide shutdown due to the impending outbreak of COVID-19. Many saw this as an opportunity to catch up on sleep or enjoy the extra time relaxing. Yet, little did they know, this was just the start of a year-long shift from in-person learning to the now normalized virtual online learning experience many faces today. College student’s motivation began to waver as everything was coming to a stop and many have gotten accustomed to what our generation has called this lack of motivation “zoom fatigue”. Zoom fatigue is the burnout, worry, or tiredness associated with the overuse of virtual platforms of communications, with a particular focus on video conferencing. We spoke with Dr. Penchen Phoborisut, an Assistant Professor of Communications at California State University, Fullerton. Dr. Phoborisut has a collective knowledge of what it’s like to work across the screen being a news reporter for CNN World Report with her one of her main areas of research within digital media technology. She provided insight as to how she as a professor has changed her way of learning through COVID-19 and we dive into a closer look as to how “zoom fatigue” has challenged the norms of many students and professors during this complex learning environment.
The Zoom Fatigue Is Real- Fix It by Paul Boudet
When conducting our interview with Dr. Phoborisut, we asked whether or not her teaching style has changed from in-person to online learning due to COVD-19.
“When it came to learning how to transition from in-person learning to online, it was difficult to learn at first. Going to meetings from 8pm to late at night to grasp the changes made me feel like a student again. Looking back, at the sessions me and my co-workers took, made me feel empathy towards my students because they are also in the same situation as I am.”
Dr. Phoborisut says that with learning how to adjust to online learning, she admits it was exhausting. She had a strong support system when it came to her other co-workers helping her but it was difficult to transition and was very stressed. Everyone in her department was going through the same transition so it was easy for everyone to relate and be there for each other.
Throughout our interview with Dr. Phoborisut, we talked about how she personally dealt with the struggles of overcoming the stress from working at home.
“When it comes to my mental health, it was hard because I had just lost someone within my family in the beginning of that year. It was devastating, and on top of the whole pandemic, I felt alone.”
In response to a question asked about the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic has affected her work ethic along with her mental health, Dr. Phoborisut talked about her experience and how she learned how to adapt to her new life.
“Before the pandemic, I would be able to grade at most 5-6 papers per day and still feel motivated to continue even though I worked in my office. When moving all of my work to home, I thought it would be easier. Yet, with every responsibility being confined to one area, I felt as though it was suffocating and my motivation to work began to decline.”
Dr. Phoborisut states that working at home was a huge shift from her usual day to day life. All her responsibilities from taking care of her family, teaching, and also taking care of herself was taking a toll on her mental health.
“Although it was strenuous, I reached out and talked to my friends and co-workers over Zoom where we tend to talk about how we feel, ranting about life, and really being there for each other. It really helped me feel as though i’m not the only one going through this and really boosted my confidence.”
With many schools across the nation, such as California State University, Fullerton re-opening its doors to its students and teachers once more in the Fall of 2021, schools must consider and remain cautious, ensuring that their students’ safety and others are its top priority. Many are eager to return after struggling with online learning. Even with the COVID-19 vaccine developed and distributed in mass, colleges and universities need to take the utmost precaution when reintroducing new safety measures to ensure that COVID-19 won’t spread during students’ time on campus. Dr. Phoborisut states that “Colleges should have the option to offer the current vaccines or covid tests on campus to help assure returning students and professors that the campus is safe.”
When asked how has her students mental health she states,
“Students often tell me of their problems and issues from their mental health, personal problems at home and many others. Students from what I know, have increased depression and anxiety due to online-learning. Inevitably, I understand and empathize with my students and give them more time on assignments or help in any way I can when it comes to grading. Everyone deserves to have some sort of breather when it comes to dealing with their mental health and I want to be there to help.”
The most important aspect that we learned from our interview was how Zoom has taken a toll on the lives of students and professors and really seeing the negative effects of “zoom fatigue”. Most people tend to see how Zoom affects students but never really take into consideration as to how professors are handling school life. As seen, “zoom fatigue” can also give people a more negative view on life such as depression and anxiety.
When it comes to dealing with Zoom fatigue and mental health. Dr. Phoborisut encourages students who are struggling should go seek Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) at school.
“CAPS is an amazing resource for students and professors who are struggling with managing school, helping change their mental state for the better, and the school is there for their students. It’s not something to be ashamed of to seek help.”