Striking a Balance Between Online Learning and Digital Well-being: A Guide for Educators

March 5, 2024

In today’s digital era, accessibility to education has broadened thanks to the availability of comprehensive, reliable, and engaging online curricula. For higher education instructors, incorporating these digital tools can be a time-saving boon, giving you back your time so you can redirect focus where it truly matters.

However, how do you strike a balance between utilizing – and encouraging – technology while monitoring your own usage? This is especially a concern for Health Educators tasked with modeling the benefits of digital well-being with their students. Embracing technology for efficiency should be paralleled with practicing digital moderation in your own day-to-day life, ensuring your own well-being as an educator remains a priority. This balance ensures you bring your best self to class, even in virtual settings.

The Challenges of Digital Tools for Educators

Though the availability and accessibility to digital tools for educators in higher education presents a lot of benefits, there are also some downsides to consider:

  • Screen fatigue: Continuous exposure to screens can lead to fatigue and eye strain, impacting educators’ overall well-being and productivity.
  • Physical impact: Sitting all day in front of a screen, or putting your head down to look at a phone, can have an impact on your physical health. You can experience back pain, neck strain, headaches, and more. It also discourages exercise.
  • Information overload and misinformation: With vast amounts of information available online, educators can face challenges in sorting through and verifying content for accuracy. Misinformation can inadvertently be disseminated, affecting the quality of education.
  • Dependency on technology: Overreliance on digital tools and resources might lead to a diminished capacity for critical thinking or problem-solving skills that come from traditional teaching methods.
  • Technological barriers: Not all educators have equal access or familiarity with advanced digital tools, leading to disparities in utilizing these resources effectively.
  • Distraction and multitasking: Constant connectivity can encourage multitasking, potentially diverting educators’ attention away from focused teaching and diminishing the depth of student engagement.
  • Modeling behavior: Especially in the case of health education, modeling digital well-being can be difficult when classes are held entirely online. You’ll have to work extra hard to create opportunities for yourself and

6 Strategies for Practicing Digital Wellbeing as an Online Educator

Digital well-being is an important topic usually covered in health science curriculums. Practicing what you preach is important for your students, yes, but it’s just as important for yourself. Spending too much time engaged in the digital world – which is a given if you teach online – can have an impact on both your professional and personal life.

Here are some tips to find that balance:

1. Understand Your Weaknesses

All of us have our unique weaknesses when it comes to our engagement with technology. What’s yours? Think about your work life and your personal life. Are you spending too much time on the screen? Is that mostly at work or after work, too? Are you spending too much time sitting down? Are you spending a lot of time grading on the screen or scrolling on social media? Knowing what your own downfalls are is the first step in combating them, little by little.

2. Establish Clear Boundaries

Online educators can and should set explicit boundaries for their digital engagement, especially given the amount of time you’ll need to spend online while teaching. Designate specific times for work, breaks, and personal activities in order to help maintain a healthy balance between professional duties and personal life. This can be a hard thing to do for many educators, as most will say they put many more hours into their work than they’re getting compensated for. Reducing the digital strain may help.

3. Tech-Free Zones or Times

Once you know where you need to create those boundaries, consider implementing tech-free zones at home or at the “office, as well as for different times during the day. This helps to foster opportunities for uninterrupted focus or relaxation without digital distractions, reinforcing the importance of unplugging and promoting mindfulness.

4. Invest in Screen Ergonomics and Work-From-Home Best Practices

As an online educator who also needs to model these behaviors for your health science students, you may want to invest in gear that enables proper ergonomics, emphasizing the significance of comfortable seating, adequate lighting, and regular breaks to alleviate strain caused by prolonged screen exposure.

Buy that comfy office chair if you spend a lot of time on it, put screen glare covers or dimmers on your devices, buy a standing test, and be sure to get up and walk around every couple of minutes. Exercise is an important duty for not just online teachers, but anyone who may work from home or at a computer. You can do this by incorporating breaks into your online lessons.

5. Get an Accountability Partner

If you’re having trouble getting off the screen, try to find an accountability partner who understands the challenges of balancing teaching online with digital wellbeing. Meet with other faculty members or online educators to hear their concerns and what ideas they may have. Even your students may have some ideas! Consider getting together in person when possible as an attempt to get away from digital influences.

6. Give Yourself Grace

It’s hard to escape our reliability on digitality. It’s all around us, and when it’s part of your job, too, this makes it even more challenging. And, when you also have to model for your students — in addition to discussing digital well-being specifically in some of your coursework it could cause you to spiral a bit. So, be kind to yourself. Don’t expect that you’ll be a digital wellness guru overnight, and know that it’s all about moderation.

Demonstrating Digital Wellness Starts With You

Supporting students’ digital well-being is central for online educators, but it can be tough when much of your life involves being online. Yet, it all begins with you. How can you present your best self in class when prolonged screen exposure causes physical discomfort, eye strain, and mental stress? By applying these field-specific strategies, educators can gradually initiate positive changes.

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