How to counteract dangers of digital learning

The recent influx in digital learning is changing how students view a "normal" class setting to look like. Grace Fortier | Photographer

By Samantha Bradsky | Reporter

Only today would someone suggest that “sitting” is the new heart attack, and that’s exactly what Trish Baum, the program manager for Academic Resources at Baylor, said when discussing the damage caused by digital learning.

In 2020 — the era of online classes and COVID-19 lockdowns — a Stanford longitudinal study found that students spent an average of 78% of their waking hours in front of a screen, equating to roughly 12.4 hours of sedentary screen time per day. Additionally, research done by the American Heart Association found that increased sedentary time of young people causes a significant increase in the risks of heart attacks and strokes.

Coming into a new school year after a year spent digital, Baum noted the “Zoom fatigue” that many students reported. Many students came to her for help “relearning how to learn” in an in-person environment.

“It was really hard for students to have the self-discipline to treat asynchronous courses as synchronous,” Baum said. “There are just some courses that are not meant to be taught online. Chemistry labs, biology labs — it’s hard to dissect something virtually.”

Students already know about most of these damages; they lived through them. So, how can they help counteract these adverse effects? Baum went into methods she uses to do so.

“If you can pause, get up, walk around and focus on things far away, that is what they [researchers] are recommending to prevent screen fatigue,” Baum said. “Because everything is up close when you’re staring at a screen, that puts a huge strain on you.”

Baum recommended taking 15-minute breaks in the middle of long stretches of screen time.

“If you can get a standing desk and stand while you’re working on your classes, or step away from your computer if you’re watching videos, this can rest your body and your eyeballs,” Baum said.

Despite the ramifications of excess screen consumption, many students and faculty members see the benefits of digital learning.

“It’s better than not learning,” Lake Forest, Illi., sophomore Jennifer Asmussen said. “I’d rather go to school online than not at all.”

Baum assists students in the Learning Lab — located in the west wing of the basement of the Sid Richardson Building — where she teaches them time management skills, the most effective ways to study for courses and how to plan a detailed schedule for optimal results. She urges students to visit her with any questions they might have.

“I think the one positive thing that both COVID and going entirely digital have done is teach us new ways to connect to students,” Baum said. “I love that.”