With today’s technology and systems, many students now have the opportunity to pursue remote or distance learning in which they receive education via virtual instruction. This alternative form of education can have its pros and cons and can affect the mental health of the students who are learning. Understanding how the factors and practices of remote learning can affect those involved can help you decide which type of learning provides the best potential outcomes.
Remote Learning and Mental Health
Mental health encompasses and depends on a wide list of factors that also occur in traditional and remote learning environments. These components include social interactions, communication styles, and mental boundaries or practices. In a remote learning program, each of these aspects can differ from the norms and standards of in-person instruction. These differences can provide both positive and negative mental health effects depending on the individual’s learning style and mental conditions.
Advantages of Remote Learning
For some students, remote or distance learning can provide some benefits for their mental health. The independent and self-paced learning environment can work well for individuals who may excel in individualized environments or those who struggle in group settings. Here are some mental health advantages that may result from remote learning situations:
Students Can Build Out Their Learning Capacities
Remote and distance learning often leave more of the responsibility for learning to the students. For many students, this can help them build and develop personalized learning capacities and models that work for their lifestyle, learning type, and mental abilities. While the initial adjustment may cause temporary stress or struggles, once the student develops an effective work method or schedule for them, they may experience an increased learning capacity that allows them to perform better and improve their mental health.
People Can Feel Reduced Social Anxieties
Students and individuals who experience social anxiety in a group setting or social environment may find comfort in the isolation and independent structure of remote learning. Not having to worry about their social surroundings, interactions, and appearances can save their mental capacity to focus on work and educational opportunities rather than their anxieties. Eliminating this source of anxiety can improve students’ overall mental health and allow them to learn with a relaxed and comforting mindset.
Disadvantages of Remote Learning
For some, the environment and components of remote or distance learning can have negative mental health effects. The lessening of structured, social, and hands-on lessons can cause issues and make some students struggle. Here are some potential disadvantages of remote learning:
It Can Reduce Structure and Motivation
Many students, especially in younger grades, may require the more structured, controlled, and enclosed lessons of in-person instruction to keep them on track and motivated to focus on and finish assignments. Parents and teachers both notice that remote or distance learning students often face a mental struggle to find and maintain motivation for this kind of education. Having less motivation can make the assignments more difficult and cause additional stress, anxiety, and attention issues for the mental health of students. This reduction of structure and schedule can cause anxiety, depression, and increased stress.
It Offers Fewer Social Interactions
For some individuals, social interactions offer positive mental health effects that can increase their happiness, focus, and fulfillment. With remote learning, you may struggle to find the connection and interactions you require. The less frequent and less tangible social structures of distance learning can cause anxiety, depression, and a lack of focus for extroverted students or those who benefit from seeing others every day. Long-term isolation and social distance have been seen to cause other negative mental health conditions, such as schizophrenia and even dementia.
It Can Create Digital Fatigue
The technologies that make remote learning possible are great technical feats of design, but long hours spent looking at and working with a computer or tablet can have adverse mental health effects. Spending extended periods of time looking at screens has been linked to increases in anxiety, exhaustion, apathy, and depression. Students in remote or distance learning programs may spend up to eight hours with digital assignments, classes, and instruction. This prolonged and required digital interaction can negatively affect their energy and mental health.
How To Help Remote Learners
Remote and distance learning programs can adapt and evolve to help mitigate the potential disadvantages and ensure the best mental health possible for students. By changing the strategies, requirements, and tactics of remote teaching and providing adequate resources for students who struggle, educators, administrators, and others can help remote learners.
Implement New Strategies
With the changed structure of remote learning, educators, parents, and students can all make necessary adjustments to learning strategies. Creating new ways for students to connect and experience meaningful social interaction can increase their mental health and happiness by maintaining connections. Other changes, such as requiring less time on the screens and encouraging independent activities with hands-on learning components, can reduce the chance of digital fatigue and improve motivation. Additional practices such as responding to messages quickly, supporting students individually, and allowing for independence can further increase students’ learning capacities.
Provide Mental Health Resources
In addition to making the structures and strategies of remote learning more accommodating, schools and distance learning programs can aid their students by incorporating mental health resources that offer accessibility for everyone. These resources can include teaching students about mental health practices, providing them with contact information for counselors, and allowing them to take mental health breaks as necessary. You can also learn more about student mental health and learning capacities by meeting with a school advocacy, consultation, and assessment professional.
Remote learning offers an accessible, flexible, and easy alternative to conventional learning environments. You can assess your mental health and the mental health effects of distance learning to determine whether it’s the right choice for you. Work to evaluate your internal motivation, social needs, and mental capacities to consider how remote learning may impact your mental health. For a more in-depth professional evaluation, you can contact us at NeuroHealth of Arlington Heights in Illinois to schedule a neuropsychological assessment.