By John Blair Clark, Jr.
Faculty Member, School of Arts and Humanities, American Public University
Are you a college instructor who looks for effective ways to improve your classroom performance and manage your time in the online classroom more efficiently? What if you could increase your effectiveness and productivity in the classroom by 5%, 10%, 15%, or even 20% and better serve the needs of your students?
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I cannot imagine any faculty members not wanting to take advantage of such an opportunity. But would you believe improved classroom performance is a real possibility with something as simple as a regular eye exam and clear vision to see your computer screen?
Does that sound too good to be true? That is what I thought until a few weeks ago when I began to experience vision issues. I thought they might be related to spending endless hours staring at my computer screen and a growing need to change my eyeglass prescription. So I made an appointment to see my ophthalmologist.
Correct Vision Relates to One’s Occupational Performance
What simply began as personal research into the health risks associated with one’s vision and computer screens suddenly led me deeper into how proper vision is related to one’s occupational performance. The results I discovered were remarkable and have implications for anyone associated with online learning, whether they are students or an instructor like myself.
What Is Computer Vision Syndrome?
The American Optometric Association has published several studies on computer vision syndrome (CVS). That is the link between computer use and visual health-related symptoms in children and adults.
In an article on CVS, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) defines the syndrome as complex eye and vision problems experienced during and related to computer use: “CVS is a health issue recognized by the American Optometric Association that can cause eyestrain, headaches, and blurred vision, as well as burning, itching, and dry eyes due to prolonged computer, tablet, cell phone, and other digital screen device usage.”
CVS a Rapidly Growing Disorder Affecting Almost 70 Million US Workers
CVS appears to be a rapidly growing problem. Some studies estimate that 90% of the 70 million U.S. workers who use computers for more than three hours a day experience CVS in some form.
As WebMD explains, CVS is caused by your eyes continually focusing and refocusing and creating muscle fatigue. During computer use, the eyes are actively engaged reading from left to right and back again, looking down and back up and reacting to the visual changes triggered by the variety of images. Unlike printed materials, a computer screen can add contrast, flicker and glare.
The WebMD article, “Computer Vision Syndrome: 12 Tips to Beat it Now,” describes the symptoms of CVS as:
- Blurred vision
- Eye strain and fatigue
- Redness in the eyes
- Double vision or polyopia
- Dry, itchy or irritated eyes
- Headaches, backaches and neck pain
- Increased sensitivity to light
- Difficulty focusing on a screen
- Gradual vision deterioration over time
- Difficult shifting focus from the monitor to other work
There has not been much research into the treatment of CVS. Therefore, we need strategic interventions to minimize the impact of CVS on one’s productivity, efficiency and quality of life.
This WebMD article lists the following strategic treatments for CVS:
- Blink, blink, blink
- Place your computer screen below eye level
- Use proper lighting and reduce glare
- Set larger fonts
- Upgrade your display and higher refresh rates
- Breathe deeply
- Take breaks frequently
- Use the 10/10/10 rule – look at an object 10 feet away for 10 seconds, every 10 minutes
- Drink lots of water
- Use eye-relaxation exercises
- Perform eye exercises
The Link between CVS and Worker Productivity
The University of Alabama Birmingham (UAB) School of Optometry conducted one of the most definitive studies on CVS. UAB researchers examined the relationship between computer workers’ vision and their workplace productivity. The results of the study revealed:
- A direct correlation between proper vision correction and productivity.
- A direct correlation between proper vision correction and the time required for a computer worker to perform a task.
- Computer-related tasks took much longer when the subjects wore glasses with less-than-optimum correction.
- Reduced productivity even among computer users who were unaware they had vision problems.
- Computer users with small refractive errors may not notice any vision discomfort. But without proper vision correction, their performance can suffer by as much as 20%.
- Improving the vision of workers using computers results in greater productivity in the workplace, as well as improved visual comfort.
- Investing in optimal computer eye wear results in significant cost-benefit ratios.
So what are you ignoring in your electronic classroom due to CVS that you know of, and how much are you really missing that you are not aware of?
The UAB study found a direct correlation between worker productivity and CVS and the need for clear vision when working with a computer.
The study also determined that workers with CVS are often aware of the symptoms and that they are missing some things on their work screens. However, workers with minor refraction errors in their eyeglass prescription may not be aware that their performance can be impaired by as much as 20%.
Corrected Vision Will Improve Classroom Performance and Productivity
Based upon such studies and results already found in the general population of computer workers, it would seem only logical that there exists a real possibility that accurately corrected vision will improve classroom performance and productivity.
More research needs to be done specifically on the work of online instructors and the implications of vision correction as a means for improving their classroom performance and productivity.
Talk to your eye doctor about the importance of good digital health and the symptoms and treatment of CVS to improve your classroom performance and productivity. All it takes is having the foresight to undergo an annual eye exam.
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About the Author
John (Blair) Clark Jr., has served for 16 years as a full-time faculty member of American Public University as an instructor of religion and philosophy. He holds a Master of Divinity in theology from Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, Missouri. He is an ordained minister of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod and calls Florida home.
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