Academic Experiences of “Zoom-Fatigue” as a Virtual Streaming Phenomenon During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Academic Experiences of “Zoom-Fatigue” as a Virtual Streaming Phenomenon During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Samual Amponsah, Micheal M. van Wyk, Michael Kojo Kolugu
DOI: 10.4018/IJWLTT.287555
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This phenomenological exploratory multiple-case study design was conducted at an open distance e-learning university and a traditional contact residential university and it was found that the participants viewed video conferencing under the COVID-19 lockdown period as an exhausting experience. A second major finding revealed that the participants were empowered with digital literacy skills to use video conferencing effectively. The current findings add to a growing body of literature on video conferencing with a focus on Zoom fatigue. Further research might explore the lived zoom experiences of administrators, students and a larger group of faculties over a longer period. The study findings must be considered when planning and implementing video conferencing for academics and students in open distance e-learning contexts. This study showed that video conferencing is one tool in the emergence of a digital zoom revolution that has radically changed the workspace. The evidence from this study suggests that zoom fatigue is a reality check for work-related health management.
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Since late 2019 the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the face of human interactions in everyday life. Corbera, et al. (2020) highlighted that we are now living through a global pandemic with unprecedented scope, scale and impact and no industry or sector remain unscathed. The authors also highlighted that the speed at which the pandemic is travelling across boundaries is unparalleled; therefore, they anticipate dire consequences for all aspects of life in the near and unforeseen future. Additionally, it is worth noting that beyond the pandemic, things are not likely to return to their former state. Consequently, the world needs to accept the new normal and find ways to survive during and post-COVID-19. The Commonwealth of Learning (COL) (2020) thus considers it imperative to venture into uncharted terrain to survive and manage the probable impacts of the pandemic.

The education sector which transcends borders, status, colour or creed has been hit hard by the virus. Based on the statistics provided by COL (2020), it is estimated that over 90% of the world’s student population has been sent home and has stayed out of school since the pandemic became a global crisis. To confirm the position of the COL, the United Nations (2020) puts the figures of children and youth who are out of school due to the COVID-19 pandemic at 1.6 million globally. Despite the shutdowns, the educational sector needs to thrive as it serves as the bedrock on which other sectors may survive. Corbera, et al (2020) thus advocate for the need to learn new ways of operating. Additionally, the COL (2020) has also documented that the separation in space and time between faculty members and students’ calls for using some form of technology or media that will restore communication between the two parties.

The need to leverage on technology to mediate communication between faculty and students and among faculties has seen a spike in the use of video conferencing applications, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic (Tanis, 2020). One video conferencing application that continues to see significant usage in this time is Zoom. According to the World Economic Forum (2020), the Zoom video conference facility was downloaded 2.1, 4.3 and 27 million times respectively in January, February and March 2020. Though the organisation has indicated that the application is not the most used, they christened it the rising star among video chat applications due to the increasing number of people logging on to it daily. Although the World Economic Forum (2020) has not touted Zoom as the most used videoconferencing facility, we are interested in its usage owing to its high adoption rate by faculties in recent times and want to gauge their experiences with its usage during the COVID-19 pandemic. Our interest finds roots in Reisinger’s (2020) finding that Zoom had nearly two million users in January and February 2020.

Like many other internet-based infrastructures, Zoom has immense benefits, especially during the time of social distancing and lockdowns in many places in the world. As noted earlier, it has the propensity of bridging the communication gap between faculty and students and among faculty members. We believe that it will continue to sustain communication even post-COVID-19.

However, this does not make it immune to the challenges that users might encounter; or may already be encountering when zooming (thus, using the Zoom video application for videoconferencing). Hence, this reflective paper reports on academics’ experiences of an online phenomenon, “zoom fatigue” when attending online video conferencing meetings. This paper conceptualises the term “academic” in line with what is offered by the Marriam-Webster Dictionary (n.d.) as a member of a university or college who teaches and conducts research. As authors of this paper, we extended this definition that an academic is appointed in an academic department and is responsible for key performance areas such as tuition, research, community engagement, academic citizenship and if promoted to a senior academic position, including academic leadership.

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