The terms “digital fatigue” and “screen fatigue” have gained visibility, says a World Trade Organization (WTO) report on technical assistance.
Since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, videoconferencing, online meetings and e-learning are no longer an alternative but a necessity.
Although there are not yet too many studies on the effects of increased videoconferencing and the fact that professional life has become almost entirely virtual, terms such as “digital fatigue” and “screen fatigue” have gained prominence, especially in 2021.
Because not only WTO technical assistance, but all work has become virtual for a good number of beneficiaries, many participants have alluded to the fatigue of devoting many hours per week to videoconferencing.
Attending virtual training activities in parallel to daily work means spending more hours watching videos, reading materials and connecting to online sessions.
In addition to this fatigue, the WTO highlights that working and also training from home, rather than attending courses in person, poses added difficulties, such as the need to choose between work and training priorities or the lack of a suitable learning environment at home.
The decrease in the number of participants in virtual activities compared to 2020 may be a consequence of the blurring of the boundaries between work and learning, whereby the latter used to entail commuting to another location.
Members and observers have emphasized the persistence or even increase in their technical assistance needs at every opportunity, but since the onset of the pandemic, the availability of their staff has been reduced.
The surge in digital training activities of all kinds during the pandemic, with the resulting increase in competition for participants’ “screen time,” also had an impact on online learning outcomes.
Online courses, which participants follow at their own pace, recorded higher dropout rates.
However, the overall performance of participants who did complete them was better than in 2020, suggesting that the increased dropout rate was due more to digital fatigue than to problems with the content.
With this phenomenon in mind, the WTO eLearning team developed more bearable micro-courses that can be followed via mobile devices, as well as specific live sessions, tips and tricks, and motivational emails to encourage participants to complete their courses.