Utah (ABC4) – If you’ve tried to maintain interaction throughout the coronavirus pandemic, chances are you are more familiar with Zoom than you’d like to be.

The now household name, Zoom, is an American video communication technology company headquartered in San Jose, California. It provides videotelephony and online chat services through a cloud-based, peer-to-peer software platform. 

It is most commonly used for teleconferencing, telecommuting, distance education, and social interactions. 

When the pandemic first hit back in March of 2020, businesses, schools, churches, and basically anyone or anything thing who was looking for a simple way to stay connected, started using Zoom to do so. 

Fast forward nearly a year and the world is still experiencing the effects of the pandemic, with the use of Zoom, a daily occurrence for many.

Dr. Kris Boyle is an Associate Professor in the School of Communications at  Brigham Young University, BYU. Dr. Boyle teaches classes in the journalism sequence: news writing, intro to video storytelling class, media effects, and graduate classes at BYU. 

About a year into the pandemic, he says he and his many students are starting to experience “Zoom fatigue.” 

“Zoom Fatigue is a real thing,” Dr. Boyle shares with ABC4.

The term Zoom fatigue is being used to described burnout, worry, tiredness, and overstimulation from overusing the virtual communication platform. 

If you spend hours a day on Zoom: taking work meetings, conducting training and seminars, listening to Zoom classes or presentations, or even spending an excessive amount of time Zooming sick or lonely family members or friends, you may be experiencing Zoom fatigue. 

When describing his experience with Zoom fatigue, Dr. Boyle says he has a lot of Zoom meetings back to back. Some days he will spend up to six hours on Zoom. 

During a pre-pandemic semester, Dr. Boyle says all those meetings would have been in person. Meetings hosted over the past year have been a totally “different experience,” he shares. 

He says Zoom definitely has its benefits. Dr. Boyle says he enjoys the convenience of jumping in and out of various meetings and appreciates being able to do and be more than one place or thing at once. However, he says Zoom has its downsides as well. 

“My experience being on Zoom- in meetings, it just kinda wears on you a little bit. You miss those in-person interactions,” Dr. Boyle shares. 

He not only spends many hours a day in Zoom meetings but also teaches some of his classes via Zoom. 

Interestingly enough, Dr. Boyle says he does not experience the Zoom fatigue from teaching that he does from meetings. He says he thinks his experience with Zoom teaching is different because he is the one “running the show.”

Though he doesn’t have Zoom teaching fatigue, it is a style of educating that has taken some getting used to.

One of the biggest challenges for educators he shares, “is trying to keep the students engaged; it’s easy for them to check out,” Dr. Boyle says. 

During a Zoom class, students aren’t forced to participate. He says this happened in in-person classes too, but he sees it moreover Zoom. He says it is easy to let students get lost in the crowd in an in-person class. On Zoom, he says it is even easier. 

Some students turn their Zoom camera off, making it even easier to disconnect. Dr. Boyle says as the pandemic semesters have gone on, he has talked with colleagues about how they can help their students stay engaged. 

He says they have discussed making it a requirement and part of their grade to keep their screen cameras on in an effort to keep students actively engaged and learning.

Currently, he says he sees more screens on in his higher-level classes. In lower-level classes, students tend to not keep them on as much.

Dr. Boyle says it is challenging as an educator because there is no way of knowing what a student is doing at home if their camera is off. 

His approach is not to micromanage the camera off and audio muted. He says he can’t go through and check everyone’s camera to see that they are engaged, so he does his best to maintain the overall feeling of the virtual classroom and hope his students want to stay engaged. 

The best way to keep students engaged and force participation is to hold breakout activities in small groups within the class. He says he will also call on his students who don’t have their cameras on and ask them to participate to see if they are engaged.

“You have to be smart about it, how you manage your classroom over zoom,” Dr. Boyle shares. 

From his experience, grades within classes have been maintained.

“My class grades are about the same,” Dr. Boyle says.

For Fall semester of 2020, Dr. Boyle listed his classes as blended, or hybrid, meaning online and in-person and sent out a survey asking students what they preferred. He says at the beginning of the semester, most students said they preferred in-person.

As the semester went on the number of students who attended in-person faded. 

During Spring semester of 2020, Dr. Boyle sent out the same information asking if students wanted in-class interaction. Students’ responses showed they preferred online courses instead, he says.

“The convenience of Zoom took over,” Dr. Boyle shares. 

For his classes, the Zoom fatigue is not hitting, Dr. Boyle adds. He says students feel they can take class wherever and make the times work better for their schedule. 

Looking post-pandemic, he says he feels “Zoom will become an integral part of what we do as an academic standpoint.”

Dr. Boyle says overall he likes working from home but can only do so much as a teacher from home, and says some things always need to happen in-person.

“My hope is we are back in the classroom.”