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WIP: Mozilla Hubs Classes Fight Feelings of Isolation and Online Fatigue

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2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Biomedical Engineering Division Poster Session (Works in Progress)

Tagged Division

Biomedical Engineering

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Paper Authors


Eric Gary Fuller University of Florida

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Lecturer and Biomedical Engineering Senior Design Instructor at the University of Florida.

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Online classes conducted via the Mozilla Hubs platform can reduce the feelings of isolation and online fatigue that many engineering students are feeling. "Zoom fatigue" is a new term which refers to the social, mental, and eduational toll of ultra frequent video conference calls on participants. This is especially taxing for students who are struggling to learn complex material with most or all of their classes being online only. While participating in video calls instead of in-person interaction, feelings of isolation emerge as well. Mozilla Hubs is a 3D social experience that engages participants in vastly different ways than traditional video calls do. Mozilla Hubs is seen as a fun and interactive tool that provides a welcome relief from Zoom fatigue and connects students in ways that traditional video calls cannnot. This work in progress paper describes the reasoning behind using Mozilla Hubs, the recommended methods and classroom activities, and a brief commentary on the planned assessment of this method.

There are several reasons for Zoom fatigue. Some yearn for more in-person interaction. Others on video calls have distractions such as other people or pets in the home who walk by, poor internet connections, or the temptation to open other tabs and work on other things. Even deeper than these logistical concerns, there are many non-verbal cues that are essential for communication that are lost in the online setting. For these reasons, the cognitive load for participating in online meetings can be much higher without participants necessarily being aware of this.

Mozilla Hubs is a 3D virtual social experience that fights online fatigue and feelings of isolation by demanding more focus, providing more natural breaks, and creating a new and fun atmosphere. In Hubs, a student is a character in a virtual 3D world that can walk around, talk with others, and view and interact with media much like in a video game. In a classroom which typically involves students interating in-person to look at posters and give other students feedback, an online video with breakout rooms is the most common method for this during the pandemic. While this works in many professional settings, it is tiring. Students in our classroom interacted and gave feedback via Hubs, which they mentioned was a unique and refreshing experience, with the majority strongly agreeing that Hubs is a better tool than other online meeting platforms for informal classroom feedback and interaction. Some students commented that Hubs requires you to use multiple keys to navigate around the virtual world and this increased interaction with the physical body makes them less likely to tune out of the meeting. Others noted that the feeling of walking around from place to place virtually gave a sense of freedom and creativity that is not found in other online meeting platforms. Perhaps most significant is that students can view multiple posters, texts, videos, or other media without the cognitive load of finding and going to multiple links. Similar to an in-person poster session in which many posters can be seen by simply walking about, Hubs allows virtual rooms with posters or other media that can be seen by walking your character through as well. To assess the benefit of Hubs vs. other online meeting tools, a study is planned to gather student feedback after doing similar informal classroom activities on Zoom vs. Mozilla Hubs. We anticipate that Mozilla Hubs will not only serve as a unique and refreshing experience but also fight feelings of isolation and Zoom fatigue.

Fuller, E. G. (2021, July), WIP: Mozilla Hubs Classes Fight Feelings of Isolation and Online Fatigue Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. 10.18260/1-2--38092

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