Digital Pedagogy Toolbox: Cultivating Digital Well-Being – From Fatigue to Healthy Daily Practices

Post by Jenny (Jing) Mao, learning transformation specialist at Coast Mountain College

“I am feeling isolated and disconnected from my instructors, peer classmates, and others by taking all the courses online.” 

“I am so tired of talking about ChatGPT all the time…”

These comments are typical of the sentiments I have heard from students and faculty in my role as an educational developer. I have found an increase in fatigue and fear around the use of digital technologies, particularly in the context of disruptions caused by artificial intelligence (AI) tools.

When I first encountered the term digital well-being, I simply considered it as an ideal state of health while using digital tools. As I learn more about this term and reflect on the fatigue experienced by educators and students, I believe there is a need to dig deeper and advocate for prioritizing digital well-being in the post-secondary context.

Digital well-being can be defined as the ability to use technology in ways that promote personal health, safety, and positive interpersonal relationships (Burr, Taddeo, & Floridi, 2020). In the teaching context involving technology, digital well-being can take on various dimensions. It involves a learning journey that goes beyond mere competence or literacy, emphasizing the intentional use of technological tools to enhance the success and overall well-being of both learners and educators (Nguyen, 2023; Kolb, 2022).

This post explores the pressing issues of digital fatigue and fear by drawing on the experiences and perspectives of both faculty and students. I look at the reasons for this fatigue and offer ideas for cultivating digital well-being as a healthy daily practice.

The Issue: Digital Fatigue and Fear

If you find yourself deeply immersed in virtual meetings and constantly using technology, you might be familiar with a sense of overload or exhaustion. I observe such fatigue among students and instructors, exemplified by these two scenarios:

Emma is a first-year international student. In her first semester, she discovered all five of her courses were conducted online. Despite beginning the semester with enthusiasm and passion, she ended up feeling disappointed and isolated by its conclusion. After interacting with her classmates, she found they shared similar feelings. While online studying provided convenience and flexibility, Emma experienced a sense of isolation and disconnection. For the following semester, she hopes for in-person opportunities to connect with her class.

Jon is a business instructor teaching both in-person and online classes through video conferencing. Despite having experience in both teaching formats, Jon finds it challenging to connect and engage students in learning activities in his video conferencing class. As midterms approach, he encounters issues of poor attendance and more students using ChatGPT for their written assignments. Jon experienced a great deal of stress with this situation.

Unpacking the Reasons

The factors contributing to digital fatigue and fear are multifaceted and include:

Differentiated digital capacities

While some people may possess advanced technological skills, others struggle to acquire foundational skills for navigating digital platforms. Not acknowledging this discrepancy can result in frustration and increased stress. For example, instructors may be surprised to discover that some new students have never used a computer in their previous educational contexts. These students face significant challenges in learning to navigate platforms such as Brightspace and video conferencing while also adapting to a new physical environment. Recognizing and addressing these differences in digital competence is crucial for fostering an inclusive and supportive digital learning environment.

Uncertainties facing the disruptions of AI tools

The integration of AI tools, including ChatGPT, in educational settings introduces a new set of challenges for both educators and students. Understanding the limitations and potential disruptions caused by AI is essential for devising strategies to mitigate their impact on digital well-being. In response to this unexpected disruption, instructors exhibit varied attitudes, ranging from fully embracing AI to ignoring or resisting it. Some experience digital fatigue, particularly during midterms or final examinations as they grapple with managing the impact of AI tools on their assessments.

Unbalanced workload, housing, and life burdens

External factors, such as unbalanced workloads, lack of housing options, and life burdens also contribute to the overall strain on students’ digital well-being. The demands of academic studies combined with personal challenges can create an overwhelming environment, further intensifying a negative attitude toward online learning or interactions with technologies. At my college, this situation applies particularly to international students, who often cannot find affordable housing and are forced to settle in a hotel at the beginning of a semester. You can imagine how difficult it is for students trying to find an affordable place to live while navigating studies with high academic expectations and technological competencies and literacy.

Cultivating Digital Well-Being as a Daily Healthy Practice

As Kolb (2022) emphasized, digital well-being is a life-long journey rather than “one-and-done talk.” For anyone who aims to thrive in the digital world of teaching and learning, it involves adapting to constant change and committing to a sustainable and healthy practice to build digital well-being. As an educational facilitator, I would like to call for cultivating digital wellness among both faculty and students as a daily healthy practice so they can move from digital fatigue to being digitally competent and mindful. In addition to developing comprehensive programs and workshops to support this endeavour, I have three suggestions:

Conduct open and ongoing conversations without assumptions

There are some invalid assumptions around the use of technology. From the instructors’ perspective, they tend to assume that young people, the generation born with the internet, naturally know how to manage technology and digital tools. However, students from different educational backgrounds are challenged to learn how to use a computer and navigate a learning platform. From the students’ perspective, they may assume instructors are not only content experts but also experts in digital tools and technology. They don’t realize that instructors also need to learn new tools and seek effective ways to adapt to the changes caused by AI technologies. It is important for faculty, administrators, and students, who are all undergoing computer or digital fatigue, to have open and ongoing dialogue without assumptions.

Make learning and teaching activities meaningful, relevant, and innovative

Being mindful of using digital tools does not necessarily mean instructors and students should only meet offline, or that they should stay away from online learning tools and environments. In fact, most students and instructors accept online learning as a new norm and recognize it is hard not to be digitally connected. What I found helpful is making the teaching or learning activity as meaningful and relevant to students’ real life or learning purpose. I advocate creating opportunities to integrate online and offline activities in a purposeful and relevant way, which could enhance learning outcomes. A case in point is a geography instructor who asked her students to take photos by visiting a local park and use the digital tool, Padlet, to exhibit their photos and write a reflection for their learning. By using an arts-informed approach, the instructor invited students to integrate experiential learning and digital technology.

Seek support, resources, and tools

Instructors should seek out instructional support services and opportunities. This can mean developing individual digital capacities and awareness by paying attention to the impact of: (JISC, 2020):

  • My own awareness and capacity to change my digital practices
  • How technologies can improve digital well-being
  • Positive impacts of technologies on my well-being
  • Negative impacts of technologies on my well-being

It can also mean building long-term physical and mental health using the five elements of the PERMA framework as a guide. (For more about this framework, also see the BCcampus FLO Friday webinar Digital Well-Being: PERMA 2.0 and More). Instructors can also consider some open educational resources (OER) with training models, such as Digital Wellbeing Education OERS, or experiment with various digital apps and tools designed to enhance digital learning experiences.

When instructors are more comfortable with digital technology, they can also model their use of digital tools and create rules together with students. For example, some instructors demonstrate how to use ChatGPT and engage students in open discussions on its benefits and limitations. By actively seeking assistance and leveraging available resources, both instructors and students can manage digital fatigue and create a positive, adaptive, and thriving educational community.


Burr, C., Taddeo, M., & Floridi, L. (2020). The ethics of digital well-being: A thematic review. Science and Engineering Ethics, 2313–2343.

Kolb, L. (2022). Prioritizing digital wellness in everyday teaching. ACSD.

Nguyen, G. (2023). Digital pedagogy toolbox: Cultivating digital well-being as a social practice with the PERMA Framework. BCcampus.