Is learning on Zoom the same as learning in person? Not for your brain!

Hello colleagues, Have you been experiencing what some are calling "Zoom fatigue"? Apparently, according to some scientists, this is a real thing. Here's how licensed clinical psychologist Brenda Wiederhold explained this concept during a recent EdSurge podcast:

  • "[I]t’s when you feel tired, anxious or worried after you overuse video conferencing. Part of the reason is there’s a slight lag. No matter how good your internet is, no matter how fast it is, it seems we have this millisecond—maybe a few milliseconds—delay. So the communication isn’t in real time, even though it seems like it is. Our brains subconsciously pick up on the fact that things aren’t quite right. And the fact that things are out of sync and we’re accustomed to them being in sync when it’s face-to-face communication, our brains try to look for ways to overcome that lack of synchrony."

Wiederhold discusses some of the other main differences between face-to-face interactions and interactions during an online class or meeting. For example, we can't judge body language as effectively, and we often need to multi-task moving from face to face or from screen to screen in order to follow what's happening. Wiederhold also talks about the chat feature being a possible distraction for some participants.

To help with "Zoom fatigue," Wiederhold recommends bringing our camera to eye level to "bring in more of a social connection." It's helpful to be sure our head and shoulders are in the camera frame. We shouldn't be sitting too low or too high. Lighting should come from in front of us rather than from behind.

What are your thoughts about Zoom fatigue? What might be some ways for us to address the issue for ourselves and the learners we work with?

Take care, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, Teaching & Leanring CoP


Hi Susan,

Once again you raise a timely topic. I must admit, I am terrible about multitasking during Zoom meetings. One way I cope is to close the tab where my email is to avoid distractions. I also try to participate as much as possible through the chat since I feel I communicate better through writing than orally. 

I came across this article that offers some great tips for helping students with Zoom fatigue. One of its tips, stand up, stretch your legs and continue to lead class while standing, is something I plan to incorporate. The article also recommended having students change their Zoom background to an image related to that week's teaching focus.

Thanks so much for continuing to bring such relevant topics for discussions. I look forward to seeing what others are doing! 

Steve Schmidt, Moderator

LINCS Reading and Writing CoP