Ergonomics has become a hot topic in workplaces, but it’s equally important for students — especially online students who spend a lot of time on computers. Without ergonomics, students may experience problems like carpal tunnel syndrome or eye strain. Take a moment to learn more about ergonomics and how you or your child can use their laptop in a healthy, comfortable way with these tips.
What Is Ergonomics?
Ergonomics is an applied science that involves designing things people use so they are safer and more efficient. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) simply defines ergonomics as “fitting a job to a person.” Ergonomic products should be more comfortable and easier to use than products that are designed without ergonomics in mind.
Ergonomics is important for employees and students in both online and brick-and-mortar settings, as they all have jobs to do. The ergonomic needs of online students are unique because they spend a substantial amount of time on the computer. When you perform an action repeatedly, even the slightest sources of discomfort or inconvenience can compound to create larger problems. Ergonomic design is aimed at preventing these problems.
The Importance of Ergonomics for Mental and Physical Health
In addition to helping improve students’ efficiency in an online classroom, ergonomics reduces the risks of certain mental and physical health conditions. Common problems students can experience when they spend ample time sitting at a computer without proper ergonomics include:
- Computer back: Posterior cervical dorsal syndrome is nicknamed “computer back” because it often comes from slouching in front of a computer for long hours. Sitting in this position can lead to pain and muscle tension in the back, as well as in other areas like the neck, thighs, and legs.
- Carpal tunnel syndrome: Carpal tunnel syndrome is one of the most well-known repetitive strain injuries (RSIs) computer users can suffer. Typing and using a mouse for prolonged periods can sometimes lead to a pinched nerve in the wrist, which can cause discomfort, weakness, tingling, and even numbness in the arm and hand.
- Neck and shoulder pain: Neck and shoulder pain is also a common problem for online students and others who spend a lot of time on the computer. Sitting with a laptop, for example, can cause a person to look down for prolonged periods, leading to inflammation in their neck. Extending the arm to use a mouse for a prolonged period can lead to shoulder pain, sometimes called “mouse shoulder.”
- Eye strain: Eye strain is the most common RSI resulting from computer use. Staring at a screen, especially if it is too close or too far, can cause the eye muscles to become fatigued, which can lead to other problems like headaches. You may also experience vision issues, like double vision or difficulty focusing.
- Psychological stress: Most discussions of ergonomics for students focus on the physical benefits, but there are also psychological benefits to ergonomic products and practices. Without these interventions, the strain and discomfort of working on a computer can make schoolwork more stressful and mentally taxing. With better ergonomics, students can enjoy a more positive experience overall in their schooling.
4 Ergonomics Tips Every Online Student Should Know
Students don’t have to be vulnerable to strain and discomfort from using the computer. By following these ergonomics tips, they can keep their minds and bodies in great shape while they work. Establishing these positive habits now can help them in their future schooling and careers when they’re working on computers.
1. Find the Right Ergonomic Products
As computers become an increasingly central part of our lives, products abound to help make working at a computer safer and healthier. In fact, the ergonomic computer equipment market is expected to grow by $808.61 million over the course of 2020-2024. When researching and purchasing ergonomic products, consider your child’s specific health and comfort needs to determine the best solution. These products might include, for example:
- Ergonomic office chair
- Keyboard with wrist rest
- Ergonomic mouse
- Sit-stand desk
- Blue-light filtering glasses
2. Adjust Your Lighting
Even without buying special products, you can create a better environment for online learning by adjusting your lighting. In many cases, this means turning on a lamp or opening some curtains to let in more light. You should also position and angle lamps or other light sources to help reduce glare, which can otherwise add to eye strain.
When your child is working in a dimly lit area or is dealing with glare, their eyes will have to work harder, so improving the lighting in an area can help prevent eye strain. Better lighting can also help them feel more alert, which may encourage other positive changes, like healthier posture.
3. Maintain Good Posture
The best posture for studying may not seem like the easiest or most comfortable posture in the moment, but it will help students avoid aches and pains in the long run. Generally, it is easier to maintain good posture when sitting at a desktop computer. However, laptops and tablets have overtaken the popularity of desktops by a long shot. So how can students maintain good posture while using a laptop? Here are a few tips:
- Sit at a desk or table rather than on a couch or bed.
- Sit with feet flat on the floor or on a footrest.
- Keep wrists in a neutral position rather than flexed or overextended.
- Keep elbows close to the body, bent at a 90-degree angle.
- Position your computer screen so the top of the screen is even with your forehead.
- Sit approximately 2 feet back from the screen.
- To maintain this posture with a laptop, students may need to elevate their computer screen and use a detached keyboard and mouse for typing and moving their cursor.
4. Take Breaks
Online students can also use timers or other reminders to ensure they take breaks periodically. Breaks are essential for preventing RSIs because they break up the repetition. Fortunately, being allowed to work at their own pace makes it easy to incorporate breaks when they make sense for your child.
Students are often tempted to grab their phones or get on social media sites during breaks, but these activities defeat the purpose when you need to take a break from screen time. Instead, try taking a few minutes in between tasks to do a helpful ergonomics activity for students like stretching, walking around the house, or stepping outside for some fresh air. The point is to change up their physical position, give the eyes a break, and refresh their mind before getting back to work.
Experience Virtual Classroom Technology at Commonwealth Charter Academy
Ergonomics can make online learning an even more positive experience for students. As a cyber charter school, Commonwealth Charter Academy has a vested interest in ensuring our learners successfully leverage technology and have access to what they need. CCA provides all the equipment required for a virtual classroom. This includes workbooks and class materials, as well as technology, like laptops, printers, and second monitors. We also offer ongoing technical support and guidance. Beyond technology needs, CCA families receive comprehensive support to help every learner succeed.
Contact us today to learn more about CCA’s technology for online students.