After the outbreak of Covid-19 in March 2020, all educational institutions across the country have moved to online classes. The online class is a new normal for a large number of students and teachers. There is a huge gap in learning methods between online and offline classes along with the mental pressure that a majority of students are facing.
Most of the educational institutions are using the zoom app for conducting online classes. It is tiring for both students and teachers to do online classes for a prolonged time. Sitting in front of electronic devices for a long time is also harmful. This physical and mental tiredness caused by virtual learning is named 'zoom fatigue'. Our brain is accustomed to the familiar method of learning when we are in offline classes. But in virtual learning, our brain works harder than offline learning. As a matter of fact, due to learning method gaps, many students struggled so much to cope up with the system.Overwhelming stress of the last 15 months have magnified the long suffering mental health struggles among the students. Unfortunately, a lot of teenagers have been suffering from it for a long time, but the global pandemic has added extra burden on their plate. Students have got irregular assessments and examination deadlines within a short period. Students feel heightened anxiety about keeping up to date with assessments and they are experiencing tremendous uncertainty when it comes to learning goals.
Uncertainty affects the motivation of the students. Many young adults and adolescents have the anxiety of keeping their video camera on and speaking in front of the class and they have the fear of getting judged. Lots of students face this anxiety during viva examinations through the zoom app. Anxiety and stress along with overuse of technology results in a short span of concentration and less social skills, decreased sense of time due to multitasking is also responsible for mental overload. Using technology on a large scale, impacts sense of identity and interferes in daily activity and relationships with family and friends, disconnects people from nature and people.
The quality of Internet service is not the same across the country. Student's simultaneous participation largely depends on network conditions and sometimes students face trouble during online examinations because of network and technical problems. The online education system has pointed to an age-old problem of our education system: that it is just academic and largely examination-centric. During the pandemic, food and financial issues, exposure to death and illness, prolonged isolation and fear of contracting the virus have triggered traumatic stress and uncertainty. Many students have shown irritability, emotional outburst, hopelessness and difficulty retaining new information resulting in demotivation to study.
Teachers have faced problems in converting offline classes into online classes. They faced huge stress of remaking their classes into effective digital forms. Elderly teachers have experienced the most difficult time in teaching. In zoom classes, spontaneous participation of students is non-existing, sometimes that demotivates educators too.
The rate of internet addiction in Asians increased by 38 per cent and the rate of anxiety and depression in young adults has increased by nine per cent compared to the previous year. Hospitals have reported an alarming increase in attempted and completed suicides in youths. But relatively few teachers have been properly trained to spot the signs of trauma, anxiety, stress and appropriately respond to them.
Educational institutions should develop a framework for monitoring the mental health of students and assist them. There is a need to deal with mental health issues, as there is anxiety about coming to the hospital to get help. Economic disparities in our society are also one of the factors in who gets proper mental health support.The online education system is for preventing session loss and to support students in completing their courses in due time. Some students are thriving in online classes and have become independent learners. Online classes will have a long impact on students. But students are lacking in practical knowledge and the overall Covid situation has made it impossible. Many medical colleges in Seoul and European countries are conducting their theoretical classes online but practical classes are held offline by dividing students into small groups with appropriate precautions. We also need such thoughtful decisions from the authorities rather than deadlines of just online assessments and examinations. It is hoped that vaccination will soon help us to get over these online classes. All we wish is to get back to normal days and to get over this 'zoom fatigue'.
The writer is an MBBS student at Shaheed Suhrawardy Medical College, Dhaka