Online Learning September 30, 2022

Critical Effects of Online Learning on Mental Health

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Effects of Online Learning on Mental Health

The radical transition from face-to-face classrooms to a high technological dependency has left many consequences. The most significant of them is the effects of online learning on mental health. Learners are expected to navigate a variety of technological tools as well as maintain their productivity. This affects their mental health, and students report feeling anxious, overwhelmed, and depressed.

The harmful effects of online classes have impacted the overall morale of students. However, there are ways to navigate virtual learning and mental health in a way that puts students first. Furthermore, it allows them to get used to e-learning without any hassle. We will discuss these ways, but before that, let’s look at a critical question, i.e., “How does online learning affect mental health?

How Can Online Learning Affect Mental Well-Being?

Online education can affect mental health in a variety of ways and some of which are described here:

Causes Anxiety & Stress

We may like to believe that learning from home would be an easy-going and comfortable experience, but in reality, it is not the same for every student. According to a study, students are more likely to feel increasingly stressed due to online learning than in-person education. There is a myriad of factors contributing to such feelings of stress and anxiety.

Concentrating on study material at home can be challenging due to limited privacy for many learners. In addition, distractions like family members interrupting the live sessions, helping siblings with their work, or internet connectivity issues add to the already overwhelming experience.

Causes Anxiety & Stress

Also, many financially challenged families cannot afford the required technology or workspace for their children to study. Technological requirements do not only include internet connection but also involve device availability and system performance.

Parents must ensure that their children have access to devices such as laptops, smartphones, etc., and WiFi to start at-home e-learning in the first place. Once they get their hands on the equipment, schools and parents must determine how young children can handle ed-tech tools such as Google Classroom and Zoom.

An issue that needs to be emphasized is that these platforms may not have been designed keeping young students in mind. Moreover, quite a few learners of all ages feel anxious and overwhelmed with videoconferencing, giving their peers a glimpse into their personal lives.

Navigating through these problems and maintaining academic performance simultaneously causes heightened anxiety and stress levels among learners. Unfortunately, many institutions didn’t anticipate the consequences of virtual learning and emotional health as they transitioned to e-learning.

Feelings of Social Isolation

Social interaction dramatically influences the process of learning. In traditional settings, students learn as a group and are accustomed to in-person instructor feedback and attention. In an eLearning environment, it’s nearly impossible to mimic such interactions. Due to limited interactions with peers, many students report feeling isolated, thus impacting their mental health.

While some virtual education platforms enable social learning, institutions are still far away from incorporating the same level of group interaction and activities as they did in face-to-face classrooms. The same goes for the educators’ feedback. Instructors have a much less hands-on role in online settings, and learners get minimal one-on-one time with their teachers. This intensifies the feeling of isolation and adds to the trouble of staying motivated in the home environment.

Learning Fatigue

The number of learning materials and resources available to students online can often lead to information overload. Teachers usually recommend to students many online resources, which learners find challenging to stay on top of. Besides, gaining knowledge from home often blurs the boundary between learning and students’ personal lives.

Learning Fatigue

As a result, many students cannot extricate themselves from their studies and keep stressing about incomplete assignments and work even during their downtime. In addition, many educators are also inclined to interact with students outside the classroom hours, which adds to the feeling of never being able to enjoy free time. Consequently, students report learning fatigue and difficulty concentrating.

Solutions to the Effects of Online Learning on Mental Health

Mental health issues can seriously influence the relationship of students with learning. But there’s good news. Educators and other educational stakeholders can devise ways to ensure that online strategy is compelling and considerate of their student’s mental health.

Don’t Enforce Unnecessary Rules

Many schools, colleges, and universities felt the need to implement specific rules at the start of the pandemic to maintain discipline while the students were learning from home. Although the idea to recreate the classroom environment at home was well-intentioned, it resulted in more stress in learners’ lives because in-person and online learning is different.

Don't Enforce Unnecessary Rules

These rules included keeping the video on at all times, even when not required, completing asynchronous lectures during school hours, or wearing school uniforms at home. As a result, these rules have few positive outcomes; instead, the harmful effects of online learning on mental health are significant. On the other hand, going easy on such regulations can relieve students of unnecessary stress and allow them to focus more on their studies.

Promote Social Interaction

Institutions must be willing to revise their current communication strategies and devise a plan that allows dynamic interaction among students, teachers, parents, and counselors. Besides formal communication channels, teachers should also arrange informal discussion forums for students to communicate with each other. For example, many LMS platforms offer individualized meetings for each course and a conversational thread to let students discuss general topics.

Promote Social Interaction

Moreover, teachers can also develop more group activities that motivate learners to interact and work together. Conventional techniques to do so are presentations, projects, or group assignments. In contrast, a non-conventional approach that includes game nights and group workouts outside school hours for those who want to join can promote student interaction. But, again, the sole purpose of these activities is to maintain a level of social interaction that students typically enjoy in traditional classrooms.

Using technology to create student interactions is also one of the solutions. For instance, peer review can improve learner interactions in open-response assessments. Learners gain feedback from multiple students as each response digitally rather than verbally.

Offer Online Mental Health Support

Institutions must be ready to dedicate necessary resources to enable easy access to mental health professionals to cater to students’ need for mental health support. Besides organizing information sessions, promoting awareness, and sharing resources, schools must have mental health experts online to cater to learners’ needs. Institutions can arrange it through their existing Learning Management Systems (LMS), with which the students are already familiar.

Offer Online Mental Health Support

Training instructors to recognize at-risk students and encourage them to seek professional help is also vital. eLearning allows us to incorporate technology-driven assessments of learner progress in real-time.

Instructors can achieve it through built-in reporting in a platform or trend analysis of user engagement. Then, when teachers have the data in hand, and there are no distractions in the classroom, adding mindfulness activities in between lessons will help students take time off the screen and re-energize themselves. Also, educators can organize a dedicated wellness week to encourage students to maintain a healthy diet and exercise.

Allow Personalized Instructor Feedback

Social interaction in classrooms is incomplete without instructor feedback. In traditional settings, instructors offer face-to-face feedback to students. However, this interaction is translated into emails in online learning.

Allow Personalized Instructor Feedback

For many learners, communication through emails is insufficient or not as insightful as in-person interactions. Teachers can schedule periodic check-ins with students in one-on-one video sessions, which would help them to discuss the educational process but also the mental health of their students.

Personal and Classroom Boundaries

We discussed how students experience learning fatigue and information overload due to a lack of boundaries between academic and personal lives. Due to such diminished boundaries, the effects of online learning on mental health are adverse. So, enforcing such boundaries can significantly affect students’ mental health.

Students should be given a choice to complete asynchronous parts of their course, or all the synchronous learning sessions must happen within school hours. Additionally, instructors should communicate with students during the same hours. Any activities after school hours must be left to students’ discretion, as would be the case in an in-person classroom.


Distance learning has almost become a permanent fixture in education; the learning future remains flexible. So, it instantly becomes vital for educators and students to stay resilient and do their best to pay attention to the mental needs of all those involved.

When the stakeholders create new learning opportunities to fit today’s world, they must closely consider the relationship between online learning and mental health. To mitigate the bad effects of online classes, they must always be ready to make amendments for the betterment of students, educators, and parents.

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