Numerous research have revealed that people relate to online instruction differently than they do to face-to-face instruction. Researchers have now looked into whether the body differs as well.
Light stress is good for learning, according to scientists.
If stress occurs to the same degree during online instruction as it does in-person instruction, Ruhr-Universität Bochum researchers have looked into that possibility. Although the courses required a comparable amount of mental effort, the online group displayed a considerably lower level of physiological stimulation. A team led by Morris Gellisch and Professor Beate Brand-Saberi describes the findings in the online edition of the journal Anatomical Sciences Education, which was released in July 2022.
Physical symptoms of physiological stress include elevated cortisol levels, reduced heart rate variability, and increased heart rate. According to Morris Gellisch, stress strongly affects learning and memory processes, as well as on sustaining attention. Not only negatively either. If it happens chronologically within the course of the learning task, a modest physiological state of excitement has a beneficial effect.
“To date, the differences between in-person and online teaching have often been assessed using questionnaires in which subjective parameters such as motivation or perceived stress were surveyed,” describes Gellisch. “But since learning has a definite physiological component, this raised the question of whether there are any differences in this regard as well.”
82 students taking an anatomy course had their heart rates and salivary cortisol levels analysed by the researchers. The students were split up into groups, and for each group, online and in-person classes were alternated. One group attended the lesson in the histology room on each day the seminar was given, and another group concurrently studied the material online. The researchers used specialised sensors to monitor heart rate variability across the course’s entire 120-minute duration on a typical course day. Additionally, they collected saliva samples at the start, 60 minutes into the course, and at the conclusion. The measurements were carried out by the students who took part via a video platform using the identical equipment and detailed instructions.
Online sessions considerably reduced physiological excitation. Lower cortisol levels, decreased sympathetic activity, and greater parasympathetic activity were all indicators of this. The last two numbers, which represent tension levels and can be calculated from heart rate variability: When they attended the seminar online, the students were more at ease.
The researchers employed questionnaires to assess subjectively felt characteristics, such as how much it was fun to take the course, in addition to physiological values. One outcome was a correlation between higher sympathetic nervous system activity and satisfaction of in-person learning. The online group did not discover this association.