3 Common eLearning Health Issues And How To Overcome Them
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3 Common eLearning Health Issues & Course Design Principles To Ensure Success

When designing eLearning programs, instructors tend to take an impersonal, hands-off approach in regards to their students’ social, mental, and physical well-being. Unfortunately, this can have a severe impact on academic achievement.

In eLearning courses, new students tend to adopt certain behavioral patterns that can lead to negative health issues. Instructors can discourage such behavior by keeping in mind the following:

Isolation Leads To Anxiety & Depression

Online learning is incredibly convenient, but with this benefit come a few drawbacks. Connecting with academic peers, communicating with the instructor, and maintaining a personal social life can become a challenge when all interactions take place remotely.

Recent studies have indicated that individuals who spend an excessive amount of time on electronic devices experience difficulties focusing and internet addiction (which is not formally recognized as a mental illness by the American Psychiatric Association) that can seriously impact our lives. It can lead to social isolation, ultimately resulting in decreased academic achievement and even mental illnesses such as depression.

How can online educators help learners avoid these potential pitfalls? Teachers must foster a sense of community through collaborative assignments, frequent discussions, and use of technology to facilitate alternative channels of communication.

  • Create regular small assignments that permit students to work together digitally. Regular contact with different peers will create a greater sense of community in a digital environment.
  • In online discussion boards, encourage students to go over course material in virtual study groups. By discussing course material, learners can clear up points of confusion, demonstrate their learning, and retain information more effectively.
  • Software such as video chat platforms and even VR applications can be used to improve communication between peers and with the instructor. This can be especially effective in collaborative projects. Teachers may even opt to hold regular “office hours”, during which students can discuss course material with them in a digital “face to face” environment.

Procrastination Leads To Irregular Sleep

For years now, educators have known that procrastination has been a major problem affecting online courses students. Students tend to wait for the assignment due dates approach before completing coursework, often submitting within an hour of the deadline. Keeping in mind that many instructors set the deadline time at late hours (often at midnight or later), this can result in some unhealthy habits.

Not only does this structure result in less-than-stellar work, but it can also interfere with learners’ sleep schedules. Sleep deprivation leads to a number of negative effects, including poor memory retention, productivity, and learning performance. Research indicates that college students, in general, are getting an inadequate amount of sleep, and sleep deprivation has clear links to poor academic outcomes. In fact, a Harvard study demonstrated that sleep regularity has a direct correlation to GPA.

  • As previously noted on eLearning Industry, there are steps instructors can take to prevent learner procrastination:
  • Your course should be designed in such a way that it doesn’t present distractions to learners. Using cluttered page designs, playing loud background music, or requiring the use of unintuitive software can distract learners and result in an increase in procrastination.
  • Have new students sign a training contract that requires them to stick to a schedule. Work with learners to set realistic milestones and help them design a routine to meet those goals.

If particular students regularly submit assignments very close to the deadline, hold a discussion with them. There’s no need to be confrontational; simply help them understand why they are putting things off. Are there personal issues affecting the students in question, or are there aspects of your assignments that complicate the submission process? This can help you, as an instructor, streamline your course and remove obstacles to student success.

Physical Health Risks From Overusing Computers

In addition to the mental health risks listed above, spending an extended amount of time at a computer can have negative physical effects on your body. Sometimes, as a result of procrastination, new eLearners may find themselves studying and completing assignments for sessions lasting several hours. This behavior can lead to a wide range of health risks, including:

  • Muscle and joint injuries
  • Increased mortality rate associated with excessive sitting
  • Eyestrain from computer use and associated symptoms

These issues can be avoided by employing some of the best practices listed above. If students follow a schedule set in a training contract and hold regular study sessions with peers, “crunch time” shouldn’t be an issue. In addition to these measures, instructors should explicitly set forth best practices as early as possible. Students need to be communicative about obstacles that hinder their ability to complete assignments, or about any other issues that may impact their learning. By doing so, they can avoid the negative health risks associated with computer overuse.

These are a few of the health issues that may affect students in eLearning programs. By adopting sound core design principles, teachers can reduce these risks and ensure greater overall academic success.

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