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This paper explores plausible reasons why some students report having more difficulty learning online, predominantly in Zoom synchronous classes, and suggests strategies that students can do to optimize their learning. During anonymous classroom observations, approximately 80% of 350 college students polled indicated it was harder to focus their attention and stay present while taking classes online. They also reported experiencing more isolation, anxiety, and depression compared to face-to-face classes, although much of this may be due to COVID-19 social isolation. Students often appear nonresponsive when attending online synchronous Zoom classes that negatively impacts the nonverbal dynamics of student-instructor interactions. Communication issues includes internet challenges, lack of facial expressions, body appearance, and movement. Students also report that it is more challenging to maintain attention, especially when they are multitasking. Suggested strategies are to optimize learning that includes arranging the camera so that you are visible, using active facial and body responses as if you are communicating to just one person face-to-face, configuring your body and environment (sitting upright and creating unique cues for each specific task), reducing multitasking and notifications, and optimizing arousal and vision regeneration.
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NeuroRegulation
http://www.isnr.org
47 | www.neuroregulation.org Vol. 8(1):4756 2021 doi:10.15540/nr.8.1.47
Avoid Zoom Fatigue, Be Present and Learn
Erik Peper1*, Vietta Wilson2, Marc Martin1, Erik Rosegard1, and Richard Harvey1
1San Francisco State University, San Francisco, California, USA
2York University, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Abstract
This paper explores plausible reasons why some students report having more difficulty learning online,
predominantly in Zoom synchronous classes, and suggests strategies that students can do to optimize their
learning. During anonymous classroom observations, approximately 80% of 350 college students polled
indicated it was harder to focus their attention and stay present while taking classes online. They also reported
experiencing more isolation, anxiety, and depression compared to face-to-face classes, although much of this
may be due to COVID-19 social isolation. Students often appear nonresponsive when attending online
synchronous Zoom classes that negatively impacts the nonverbal dynamics of studentinstructor interactions.
Communication issues includes internet challenges, lack of facial expressions, body appearance, and movement.
Students also report that it is more challenging to maintain attention, especially when they are multitasking.
Suggested strategies are to optimize learning that includes arranging the camera so that you are visible, using
active facial and body responses as if you are communicating to just one person face-to-face, configuring your
body and environment (sitting upright and creating unique cues for each specific task), reducing multitasking and
notifications, and optimizing arousal and vision regeneration.
Keywords: Zoom fatigue; communication; attention; learning
Citation: Peper, E., Wilson, V., Martin, M., Rosegard, E., & Harvey, R. (2021). Avoid Zoom fatigue, be present and learn. NeuroRegulation,
8(1), 4756. https://doi.org/10.15540/nr.8.1.47
*Address correspondence to: Erik Peper, PhD, Institute for
Holistic Health Studies/Department of Recreation, Parks, Tourism
and Holistic Health, San Francisco State University, 1600
Holloway Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94132. Mailing address
during COVID-19: 2236 Derby Street, Berkeley, CA 94705. Email:
epeper@sfsu.edu
Copyright: © 2021. Peper et al. This is an Open Access article
distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution
License (CC-BY).
Edited by:
Rex L. Cannon, PhD, SPESA Research Institute, Knoxville,
Tennessee, USA
Reviewed by:
Rex L. Cannon, PhD, SPESA Research Institute, Knoxville,
Tennessee, USA
Randall Lyle, PhD, Mount Mercy University, Cedar Rapids, Iowa,
USA
Introduction
Overnight, the pandemic transformed college
teaching from in-person to online education. Zoom
1
became the preferred academic teaching and
learning platform for synchronous education.
Students and faculty now sat and looked at their
screens for hours. While looking at their screens,
the viewers were often distracted by events in their
environment, notifications from smartphones, social
media, and email, which promoted multitasking
(Solis, 2019). The digital distractions caused people
to respond to twice as many devices with half as
1
In this paper will use Zoom as the example for
synchronous online teaching, although the concepts apply
equally to other platforms, such Microsoft Teams and
Google Meet.
much attentiona process labeled semitasking
meaning getting twice as much done half as well.
For many students synchronous online learning was
more challenging, especially after teaching was
shifted to a Zoom environment without adapting the
course materials to optimize online learning. During
polling of 325 undergraduate university students at a
metropolitan university who were all taking
synchronous online Zoom classes, the vast majority
reported that learning was somewhat to extremely
difficult, with only the minority of students
(approximately 6%) preferring online learning, as
shown in Figure 1.
The increased self-report on difficulty experienced in
synchronous Zoom online learning may also affect
Peper et al. NeuroRegulation
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Figure 1. Survey of 325 Undergraduates comparing Zoom online learning compared to the previous in-person
classes. Approximately 94% had moderate to considerable difficulty with online learning.
academic achievement. Kuhfeld et al. (2020)
reported that there appears to be a significant loss in
learning gains for reading and mathematics
compared to a typical school year for junior and
senior high school students. The actual reduction in
academic achievement may depend upon multiple
factors such as access to internet and computer and
social support. At the same time, many people have
reported an increase in physical, behavioral, and
psycho-emotional problems; for example, backache,
headache, stomachache, eyestrain, sore neck and
shoulder pain, over- or undereating, over- or
undersleeping, over- or underexercising, ruminative
thoughts related to categories of anxiety or fear,
boredom or numbness, depression or sadness,
anger or hostility, etc. (Fosslien & Duffy, 2020; Intolo
et al., 2019; Lee, 2020; Leeb et al., 2020; McGinty,
Presskreischer, Anderson, Han, & Barry, 2020;
Peper & Harvey, 2018; Peper, Harvey, & Faass,
2020).
This paper explores differences in communication
and factors that can enhance learning during
synchronous Zoom online education. The concepts
are derived from our teaching athletes to sustain
peak mental and physical performance, with the
implication that the same concepts can help
students towards sustaining on-topic attention during
online learning (Wilson & Peper, 2011). In sports,
the coach can help guide the athlete; however, the
athlete needs to be present and motivated. Faculty
have a responsibility to support, encourage, and
engage students, while students have the
responsibility to configure themselves into an
optimum learning state.
Differences in Communication Between Live and
Computer Communication
Until the 20th century, almost all communication
included nonverbal expressions. The speaker used
verbal and nonverbal expressions, while the
respondent would immediately show a reaction to
the speaker. There was a continuous dynamic
verbal and nonverbal exchange. The listener would
respond to the speaker. If listeners agreed, they
nodded their heads. If they disagreed or were
intimidated, they would provide alternative body
movements (e.g., shake their head) or facial
expressions (e.g., look away or frown).
During normal conversations, both the speaker’s
facial expression and body language are noticed
and responded to, which in turn can be used as
feedback by the other person. Although Zoom,
Microsoft Teams, or Google Meet provide dynamic
visual and auditory feedback, especially in a one-to-
few session, in large group sessions with many
participants, the visual feedback is reduced and
facial responses are difficult to distinguish,
especially when in Gallery view.
In a Zoom environment, both the sender and
receiver are watching the computer screen without
awareness that nonverbal cues are essential for the
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purpose of understanding not only what is being said
but also for the implied meaning and its importance.
These nonverbal cues are usually processed without
awareness in live person-to-person exchange.
While sending and receiving are usually
simultaneous, there can exist a disconnect between
the attached meanings of the encoded information
and that of the decoded information due to the
inconsistent existence of important nonverbal
components. In a Zoom environment, the end result
could mean multiple images of receivers providing
the sender with little or no nonverbal cues with which
to interpret the meaning they have attached to the
presenter’s message. The audience may appear to
look at him; however, he does not know whether
they are attending to him, have a neurological
disorder and cannot respond, are reading their
emails, watching YouTube videos, or texting on their
phone. Additionally, the nonverbal cues they are
sending may not be related to his message but
rather to their reaction to other media, people, or
distractions not seen by the presenter.
This mode of communication is different from
communication patterns that through natural
selection have allowed the human species to thrive
and survive. For the first time in human history we
learn, teach, work, socialize, and entertain in front of
the same screen. In many cases, communication in
the era of smartphones has been reduced to texting,
writing digital responses, or reacting to media
content on any screen. Over the past few decades,
it is possible for people to communicate through
more disembodied, off-topic, and external modes of
interaction. So many types of learning activities vie
for our attention and can occur without leaving our
chairs; thus, it may be difficult to stay on-topic in
online Zoom classes (Keller, Davidesco, & Tanner,
2020).
Normal communication typically involves whole body
movements (face, head, arms, and hands) which
tends to energize or sometimes distract the speaker
or listener (Kendon, 2004). When communicating
with friends, we often move our bodies dynamically
and responsively during the discussion. With
synchronous large online lectures, students tend to
be passive and just sit and watch.
2
This state of
sitting and just watching the screen is similar to
2
Zoom and other synchronous online platforms provide
tools to indicate that you would like to speak (e.g.,
electronic hand raising); however, it is an issue of how the
class session is designed (e.g., do you use breakout
rooms, are there structured requests for interaction).
watching video entertainment where we sit for a long
time and are covertly conditioned not to act. Thus,
we have trained ourselves not to initiate action since
the screen does not provide feedback to our
responsesa process so different from talking and
responding spontaneously in groups of participants.
For many students it is more challenging to respond
in an online large group, as the person becomes the
focus of the group and sometimes is self-conscious
and concerned about what others will think of them.
When communication is safe, people interact,
respond, and chime in. In large groups, just like in
large lectures, Zoom tends to inhibit this process
because it delays social feedback since most people
mute their microphones to avoid extraneous noise.
This is usually the rule for large groups; in small
groups, people often unmute themselves. The
physical act of unmuting is an additional barrier to
spontaneous verbal responses. This shift of
attention induces a delay before responding. From
a communication perspective, a delay before
responding reduces the spontaneity and is often
interpreted more negatively by the listener (Roberts,
Margutti, & Takano, 2011).
Facial Expressions and Auditory Processing
Facial expressions are a critical part of nonverbal
feedback, signaling to the other person that they are
being listened to and providing cues that the
interaction is safe. We unknowingly react to facial
expressionsprocessed unconsciously through
neuroception (Porges, 2017)to indicate whether
the person is signaling safety or danger. Usually
when the persons facially responsiveness shows
expression, it signals safety and allows
communication and intimacy to be developed. If the
person shows no facial expressions (a still/flat face),
we unconsciously interpret this as a signal of danger
(Porges, 2017). The importance of responsive
feedback is illustrated in the study by Tronick,
Adamson, Als, and Brazelton (1975), where mothers
were instructed not to respond with facial and body
cues to their infant. The babies rapidly became
highly disturbed when the mother stayed
nonresponsive, as dramatically illustrated in the
YouTube video, Still Face Experiment: Dr. Edward
Tronick (Tronick, 2009). In adults, lack of verbal and
nonverbal feedback during social evaluations is
extremely stressful (Birkett, 2011; Gruenewald,
Kemeny, Aziz, & Fahey, 2004). This response is the
basis of the Trier Social Stress Test (TSST) that
many researchers use to explore the effect of social
stress (Allen et al., 2016). The TSST requires a
person to prepare a presentation, deliver a speech,
and verbally respond to a challenging arithmetic
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problem in the presence of judges who show no
emotional and nonverbal responses (Kirschbaum,
Pirke, & Hellhammer, 1993).
The absence of social facial and body feedback
often makes teaching and learning more
challenging. Namely, are the receiversthe
invisible (only their picture or name is shown),
partially visible (facial features are indistinct due to
backlighting), or ghosting (those whose picture and
name are shown but are physically absent from the
session)understanding the information the way the
sender intended? Unlike traditional classroom
settings where one has the benefit of seeing and
sensing nonverbal cues, often in the Zoom Gallery
view the speaker may not know what how the
audience is responding and this contributes to Zoom
fatigue. In addition, the communication bond is
often reduced when the speaker does not look at the
audience and the listener does not respond to the
speaker with facial expressions. Zoom fatigue can
also be reduced when online teaching tools are used
appropriately by involving active feedback
responses through polls, chat, etc. as well as by
asking specific participants to speak and give
feedback.
What is unique to the synchronous online
environment is that the speakers and participants
view themselves. This is the first time in human
history that people are seeing themselves while
speaking.
3
For some people, seeing themselves
may increase anxiety and negative self-judgement
a process that is even more prevalent in teens.
Some are self-conscious, and some have social
anxiety and do not want their face to be shown
(Degges-White, 2020). In the past, most of us had
no idea how we looked when we were
communicatingit is totally novel experience to see
yourself while talking and communicating.
Reduced Physical Activity and Increased Near
Vision Stress
Before sheltering in place, I would walk from my
house to the BART station, take the train to Daly
City station, and then walk to the university. At
the university, I would climb stairs to go to my
office, meet with other faculty, and walk to the
classroom. At the end of the day, I would walk
3
Zoom has a feature to hide yourself when you start or
join a Zoom meeting. The meeting automatically begins in
Speaker View, where you can see your own video. Right-
click your video to display the menu, then choose
Hide Myself.
back to the Bart station and eventually walk
home. Without any thinking or trying to do any
exercise, I usually would do 12,000 steps and
about 25 stairs. Now, I am lucky if I do 3,000
unless I will myself to do more exercise.
The move to a Zoom environment and sheltering in
place means that we sit more and more, which tends
to increase mortality, decrease subjective energy,
and contribute to an attitude of passive engagement,
more as an observer than as a participant (Oswald,
Rumbold, Kedzior, & Moore, 2020; Patel, Maliniak,
Rees-Punia, Matthews, & Gapstur, 2018; Stamatakis
et al., 2019; Yalçin, Özkurt, Özmaden & Yagmur,
2020). While sitting, we also tend to slouch as we
look at the screen that may be a covert factor in the
increasing rates of depression and anxiety. This
slouching position tends to decrease access to
positive memories and allow easier access to
negative memories (Peper, Lin, Harvey, & Perez,
2017) as well as interfere with academic
performance. Peper, Harvey, Mason, and Lin
(2018) found that students have more difficulty
performing mental math in the slouched as
compared to upright sitting position. To reduce the
impact of sitting, Peper and Lin (2012) found that
when students perform some physical activities
(e.g., skipping in place) for just a minute they report
significantly increased subjective energy and
attention levels.
When looking at the screen our eyes only focus on
the screen, which is different from in-person
communication where you look at the person and
then look behind or to the side of the person. Only
focusing at the screen requires the muscles of the
eyes to tighten for the eyes to be able to converge
and the ciliary muscles around the lens contract so
that the lens curvature is increased, resulting in near
visual stress. This continuous looking at a near
object is different from normal eye function in which
we alternately focus on nearby objects and then look
far away, which allows the muscles of the eyes to
relax.
Student Issues
Factors that contributed to negative experiences of
pandemic distance learning included obvious
concerns such as social isolation, challenges with
maintaining attention during distance learning
classes, as well as uncontrollable disruptions and
related technical issues (e.g., limited Wi-Fi,
inadequate bandwidth or appropriate computer
power). Typical negative experiences included
reports of having little or no control over technical
issues or the necessity of distance learning formats.
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They also reported a lack of control related to job
loss or receipt of any financial support to deal with
income loss. A third common report included lack of
a private workspace at home. Together, ruminations
about various negative experiences plus lack of
privacy resulted in reduced attention, especially
when others in the household caused disruptions of
the learning space or disruptions to other scheduled
daily activities. In addition, the perceptions of
loneliness may have resulted from the de facto
isolation imposed by shelter-in-place pandemic
policies (Jelaca, Anastasovski, & Velickovska, 2020;
Lemay, Doleck, & Bazelais, 2019).
Numerous students reported that it was much easier
to be distracted and multitask, check Instagram,
Facebook, and TikTok, or respond to emails and
texts than during face-to-face classroom sessions as
illustrated by two students’ comments.
“Now that we are forced to stay at home, it's
hard to find time by myself, for myself, time to
study, and or time to get away. It’s easy to get
distracted and go a bit stir-crazy.”
“I find that online learning is more difficult for me
because it’s harder for me to stay concentrated
all day just looking at the screen.”
Students often reported that they had more difficulty
remembering the materials presented during
synchronous presentations. Most likely, the
passivity while watching Zoom presentations
affected the encoding and consolidation of new
material into retrievable long-term memory. The
presented material was rapidly forgotten when the
next screen image or advertisement appeared and
competed with the course instructor for the students
attention. We hypothesize that the many hours of
watching TV and streaming videos have conditioned
people to sit and take in information passively, while
discouraging them to respond or initiate action
(Mander, 1978; Mărchidan, 2019). Learning
requires engagement, which means a shifting from
passively watching and listening to being an active
participant shareholder in synchronous online
classes. However, in most cases, students have not
received information, education, or training on how
to be a more active and engaged participant in a
synchronous Zoom class.
Instructor Issues
Instructors also have many of the same issues when
presenting classes online. They engage in multiple
simultaneous roles: presenter, director, and
producer. While teaching, they need to engage
students, monitor the chat for feedback, and look at
the screen for facial responses. At the same time,
they may face similar technical issues as those
experienced by students such as internet
connectivity, limited bandwidth, and mastering the
technical features of synchronous online learning
technology. At times, instructors feel that students
expect each presentation to be as captivating as a
TED Talk. Thus, teaching has shifted from
education to edutainment.
Practical Suggestions to Optimize Learning
To optimize learning in the synchronous online
environment, teachers have the responsibility to
reconfigure their teaching so that it incorporates
active student involvement, and students have the
responsibility to be present and engaged. The
following practices may facilitate learning.
Be Present to Learn
Mastering media presence is becoming even more
important for everyone. The skill implemented in
attending an online learning class will also be useful
for professional development. Although the
pandemic shifted personal interviews to online
interviews, most likely synchronous and
asynchronous video interviews will be part of the first
automatic screening level to assess candidates for a
job (Rubinstein, 2020).
Be visible for the other person looking at you to
create a positive impression. Adjust your camera
and lights so that your face is visible and you are
looking at the person to whom you are talking. Your
screen presence is representing you. Does the
camera show you engaged, distracted, or lying in
bed? Be aware that you and your background
together create an impression. The concept of
looking directly at the audiencelooking directly at
the camerais not new. Everyone working in media
(newscasters, politicians, actors) have been trained
to make their faces visible and expressive. This
means arranging your webcam at eye level right in
front of you and speaking to the camera as if it is the
person. Avoid looking down at the person on the
screen since the viewer would see you looking look
down and away. Be sure your face is illuminated
and there are no bright light sources behind you
(Purdy, 2020). We recommend that, in a small
group, participants unmute their microphones so that
people can respond spontaneously to each other
unless there is excessive background noise.
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Be a responsive and interactive listener to
configure your brain to be engaged. Shift from
being a passive absorber to an active participant,
even if your camera is off or the speaker cannot see
you. Imagine being physically with the speaker and
activate yourself by increasing your face and body
animation as you are attending a synchronous
online class. Thus, when you watch a presentation,
act as if you are in a personal conversation with the
presenter or the material. This means that if you
agree, nod your head; if you disagree, shake your
head (do this naturally without making it a work
task). Do this for the whole session. Our research
has shown that when college students purposely
implement animated facial and body responses
during Zoom classes, they report a significant
increase in energy level, attention, and involvement
as compared to just attending normally in class
(Peper & Yang, in press; see Figure 2).
Figure 2. Change in subjective energy, attention and
involvement when the students significantly increase their
facial and body animation by 123 % as compared to their
normal nonexpressive class behavior.
“I never realized how my expressions affected
my attention. Class was much more fun.
22-year-old female student
“I can see how paying attention and participation
play a large role in learning material. After trying
to give positive facial and body feedback, I felt
more focused and I was taking better notes and
felt I was understanding the material a bit
better.” 28-year-old medical student
Configure your body to attend and perform. Sit
upright and adapt a position of empowerment.
When we sit upright and expanded, it is easier to
have positive thoughts and detach from negative
hopeless thoughts (Peper, Harvey, Mason, & Lin,
2018; Peper, Lin, Harvey, & Perez, 2017). Students
also performed better in mental math when they sat
upright as compared to collapsed. When students
are provided ongoing feedback when they begin to
slouch by an app that uses the computer camera to
monitor slouching, they reported a significant
decrease in neck and back symptoms (Chetwynd,
Mason, Almendras, Peper, & Harvey, 2020). As one
of many students reported:
“Before, when I didn't use the app, I had lots of
shoulder and neck pain. Now when I use it, the
pain went way down as I kept changing posture
to the feedback signal. I had more energy and I
was more alert. I did notice that when I would
get the alert to sit up straight.”
Optimize Concentration and Learning
In the online environment, the structure more likely
depends upon the person, unlike the externally
created structure of going to work or to class. Thus,
purposely creating a time structure and scheduled
time periods to perform different tasks as time
management skills are associated with improved
school and work performance (Macan, Shahani,
Dipboye, & Phillips, 1990). Create an environment
to promote concentration and reduce distractions.
Stay on task and reduce interruption and
practice refocusing on task. On the average we
now check our phones 96 times a daythat is once
every 10 minutes and an increase of 20% as
compared to two years ago (Asurion, 2019). Those
who do media multitasking, such as texting while
doing a task, perform significantly worse on memory
tasks than those who are not multitasking (Madore
et al., 2020). Multitasking is negatively correlated
with school performance (Giunchiglia, Zeni, Gobbi,
Bignotti, & Bison, 2018). When working or attending
a class or meeting, turn off all notifications (e.g.,
email, texts, and social media), and then block out
specific times when you work on Zoom and when
you respond to email, phone, or social media
(Newport, 2016). Let people know that you will look
at the notifications and respond in a predetermined
time so that you will not be interrupted while working
or studying. If you work where there are other
people, arrange your workstation so that there are
fewer distractions, such as sitting with your back to
other people. When students chose to implement a
behavior change to monitor cell phone and media
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use and to reduce the addictive behavior during a 5-
week self-healing project, many report a significant
improvement of health and performance. One
student observed that when she reduced her cell
phone use, her stress level equally decreased as
shown in Figure 3.
Figure 3. Example of a student changing cellphone use
and corresponding decrease in subjective stress level.
During this class project, many students observed
that continuous responding to notifications and
social media affects their health and productivity. As
one student reported,
The discovery of the time I wasted giving into
distractions was increasing my anxiety,
increasing my depression, and making me feel
completely inadequate. In the 5-week period, I
cut my cell phone usage by over half, from 32.5
hr to exactly 15 hr, and used some of the time to
do an early morning run in the park.
Rediscovering this time makes me feel like my
possibilities are endless. I can go to work full
time, take online night courses reaching towards
my goal of a higher degree, plus complete all my
homework, take care of the house and chores,
cook all my meals, and add reading a book for
fun! 22-year-old college student
Approach learning with a question. When you
begin to study the material or attend a class, ask
yourself questions that you would like answered. If
possible, put your questions to the instructor. When
you have a purpose, it is easier to stay emotionally
present and remember the material (Osman &
Hannafin, 1994).
Take written notes while attending a Zoom
meeting or class. When participants take
handwritten notes versus on the computer, they tend
to integrate and remember the material much more
than just watching passively (Mueller &
Oppenheimer, 2014). Active note-taking leads to
focused attention and fewer distractions from social
media content (Flanigan & Titsworth, 2020).
Review materials. At the end of the class, meet
with your fellow students on Zoom or social media
and review the class materials. As you discuss the
materials, add comments to your notes and, if
possible, do a hierarchical outline to more easily
remember the relationships among the ideas.
Change your internal language. What we overtly
or covertly say and believe is what we may become.
When one says, “I am stupid,” “I can’t do math,” or “It
is too difficult to learn,” one may feel powerless,
which increases stress and inhibits cognitive
function. Instead, change the internal language so
that it implies that you can master the materials such
as, “I need more time to study and to practice the
material,” “Learning just takes time, and at this
moment it may take a bit longer than for someone
else,” or “I need a better tutor.”
Create an Environment to Trigger the
Appropriate Mental and Emotional State for
Learning
Learning and recall are state dependent. Without
awareness, the learned content is covertly
associated with environmental, emotional, social,
and kinesthetic cues. Thus, when you study in bed,
the material is more easily accessed while lying
down. When you study with music, the music
becomes a retrieval cue. Without awareness, the
materials are encoded with the cues of lying down or
the music played in the background. When you take
your exam in a different setting then you have
studied, none of the covert cues are there; thus, it is
more difficult to recall the material. Study and
review the materials under similar conditions as
where you will be tested.
To configure yourself to be ready to study, work, or
socialize, create different environments that are
unique to each category of Zoom involvement
(studying, working, socializing, entertaining). Pre-
COVID, we usually used different clothing for
different events (work vs. party) or different
environments for different tasks (temple, churches,
mosques, or synagogue for religious practice; bar or
coffee shop to meet friends). Create a unique
environment with each Zoom activity. The stimuli to
be associated to the specific tasks can also include
lighting, odors, sound, or even drinks and food.
These stimuli become the classically conditioned
cues to evoke the appropriate response associated
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with the task, just as Pavlov conditioned dogs to
salivate by pairing a sound with the meat. Taking
charge of the conditioning process may help many
people to focus on their tasks, as so many students
use their bedroom, kitchen, or living room for Zoom
work, which is not always conducive for learning or
work.
Wear task-specific clothing just as you would
have done going to work or school. When you
plan to study, put on your study T-shirt. In time, the
moment you put on the study T-shirt, you are cueing
yourself to focus on studying. When finishing with
studying, change your clothing.
Arrange task-specific backgrounds for each
category of Zoom task. Place a different
background such as a poster or wall hanging behind
the computer screenone for studying and another
for entertainment. When finished with the specific
Zoom event, take down the poster and change the
background.
Optimize Arousal and Regenerate Vision
The longer we sit the more passive we tend to
become. Teachers will benefit by interrupting the
passive transfer of information by guiding students in
fun short movements to increase arousal. If
instructors fail to put in movement breaks, students
sitting in front of screens can remind themselves to
move. The challenge is that we are usually unaware
of how much time has passed as we are captured by
the screen. It is often helpful to use an app such as
StretchBreak
4
to remind yourself to get up and
move.
Get up and move every 30 min. After sitting for a
30-min stretch, wiggle and move. Do the
movements with vigor or even dance, look up and
reach up. When you stand up and move your legs
and feet, you tighten and relax your calf muscles
that pump the venous blood and lymph fluids that
have been pooling in your legs back to your heart.
The calf muscle is often called the second heart
because in facilitates venous blood return.
Regenerate vision. Our eyes tend to get tired, and
then the world looks blurry. Interrupt the near vision
stress by allowing the eyes to relax and regenerate.
Palming. Bring your hands to your face and
cup the hands so that there is no pressure on
your eyeballs. Allow the base of the hands to
touch the cheeks while the fingers are interlaced
4
Free app available from http://www.stretchbreak.com
and resting your forehead. Then, with your eyes
closed, imagine seeing black. Breathe slowly
and diaphragmatically while feeling the warmth
of the palm soothing the eyes. Feel your
shoulders, head, and eyes relaxing, and do this
for 5 min (Peper, 2021; Schneider, 2016).
Look at the distance. Interrupt near visual
stress (convergence of the eyes and tightening
of the ciliary muscle around the lens allows us to
focus on the screen) by looking away at the far
distance. Every so often look at the clouds, tops
of trees, or rooftops outside the window to relax
the eyes.
Summary
By activating the evolutionary communication
patterns that allowed us to survive and thrive and
using known performance enhancement skills
derived from peak performance training, we can
enhance involvement and productivity. The
instructor needs to stay current on methods that
keep students attention. At the same time, students
have a responsibility to configure themselves to
optimize learning. We recommend practices to (1)
be present and learn, (2) optimize concentration and
learning, (3) create an environment to trigger the
appropriate mental and emotional state for learning,
and (4) optimize arousal and regenerate vision. By
taking charge of your own teaching or learning
process and configuring yourself to be present
through active participation, learning is enhanced.
Author Note
We thank Professor Jackson Wilson for his incisive
comments.
Author Disclosure
Authors have no grants, financial interests, or
conflicts to disclose.
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Received: January 01, 2021
Accepted: January 12, 2021
Published: March 29, 2021
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Thesis
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Introduction: Coronavirus (COVID-19) instigated unprecedented global effects on healthcare systems, economies, employment, education, travel, and social lives. In addition to increased mental health challenges, pandemic restrictions have triggered emerging cognitive concerns. University students are at particularly high risk of adverse lockdown-related effects, yet despite the substantial adaptions to learning necessitated by COVID-19, limited research has so far focused on the cognitive consequences of the pandemic among university students. This study aimed to comprehensively examine the nature, prevalence, and correlates of subjective cognitive concerns among 972 students (Median age = 22 years, 70% female) enrolled at Monash University, Australia, in December 2020. Methods: Students completed the online THRIVE@Monash survey, 5 weeks following prolonged lockdown in Melbourne. Using group comparisons and hierarchical binary logistic regression analyses, we examined associations between demographic and enrolment characteristics, COVID-19-related experiences and impacts (author-developed questions), self-reported anxiety and depression symptoms (PROMIS Anxiety and Depression scales), and students' perceived changes in everyday cognitive functions (author-developed questions). Results: Over 60% of students reported subjective cognitive concerns (SCCs). After controlling for anxiety and depression symptoms, students reporting more SCCs were more likely to be younger, from White/European ethnic backgrounds, and in their first year of undergraduate study. No differences in SCCs were found between male and female students. Greater worry, anxiety, or stress related to COVID-19 (e.g., infection, leaving the house, hygiene and exposure prevention, impact on physical and mental health), and time spent reading or talking about COVID-19, were generally not associated with SCCs after controlling for anxiety and depression symptoms. Discussion: These findings highlight vulnerable subgroups of students who might benefit from regular monitoring, education, and interventions to support their cognitive health during the pandemic and beyond. In addition, cognitive concerns may provide additional insight into mental health problems among students, and emphasize the importance of understanding factors that impact students' long-term academic and career success.
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With the explosion of digital media and technologies, scholars, educators and the public have become increasingly vocal about the role that an ‘attention economy’ has in our lives¹. The rise of the current digital culture coincides with longstanding scientific questions about why humans sometimes remember and sometimes forget, and why some individuals remember better than others2–6. Here we examine whether spontaneous attention lapses—in the moment7–12, across individuals13–15 and as a function of everyday media multitasking16–19—negatively correlate with remembering. Electroencephalography and pupillometry measures of attention20,21 were recorded as eighty young adults (mean age, 21.7 years) performed a goal-directed episodic encoding and retrieval task²². Trait-level sustained attention was further quantified using task-based²³ and questionnaire measures24,25. Using trial-to-trial retrieval data, we show that tonic lapses in attention in the moment before remembering, assayed by posterior alpha power and pupil diameter, were correlated with reductions in neural signals of goal coding and memory, along with behavioural forgetting. Independent measures of trait-level attention lapsing mediated the relationship between neural assays of lapsing and memory performance, and between media multitasking and memory. Attention lapses partially account for why we remember or forget in the moment, and why some individuals remember better than others. Heavier media multitasking is associated with a propensity to have attention lapses and forget.
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Technological developments in recent decades have increased young people's engagement with screen-based technologies (screen time), and a reduction in young people's contact with nature (green time) has been observed concurrently. This combination of high screen time and low green time may affect mental health and well-being. The aim of this systematic scoping review was to collate evidence assessing associations between screen time, green time, and psychological outcomes (including mental health, cognitive functioning, and academic achievement) for young children (
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Attention is thought to be the gateway between information and learning, yet there is much we do not understand about how students pay attention in the classroom. Leveraging ideas from cognitive neuroscience and psychology, we explore a framework for understanding attention in the classroom, organized along two key dimensions: internal/external attention and on-topic/off-topic attention. This framework helps us to build new theories for why active-learning strategies are effective teaching tools and how synchronized brain activity across students in a classroom may support learning. These ideas suggest new ways of thinking about how attention functions in the classroom and how different approaches to the same active-learning strategy may vary in how effectively they direct students' attention. We hypothesize that some teaching approaches are more effective than others because they leverage natural fluctuations in students' attention. We conclude by discussing implications for teaching and opportunities for future research.
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Laptop computers allow students to type lecture notes instead of relying on the traditional longhand (i.e. paper–pencil) method. The present research compared laptop and longhand note-taking methods by investigating how the quality (i.e. complete versus incomplete idea units) and quantity (i.e. total words and total idea units) of typed and handwritten notes differed when students did or did not reply to text messages during a simulated lecture. Accounting for the presence of text messaging while participants took notes situated the present study within the reality facing many students in today’s digital age. Findings indicated that a considerable proportion of the idea units captured in participants’ notes were incomplete, regardless of note-taking method or exposure to distraction during the simulated lecture. However, only the total number of complete idea units stored in student notes meaningfully predicted lecture learning. Furthermore, the presence of digital distraction was particularly disruptive to the quality and quantity of laptop users’ lecture notes relative to longhand note takers. Finally, digital distraction emerged as a more meaningful predictor of lecture learning than note-taking method. Recommendations for improving the quality of student lecture notes are discussed and avenues for future research into note-taking completeness and the interplay between digital distraction and note-taking method are proposed.
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This study uses national survey data to compare self-reported psychological distress among US adults in April and July 2020 by demographic and stressor type subgroups.
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