Completing an online degree requires students to spend a lot of time at the computer screen; studying online, reading, researching, writing, and participating in online forums and discussion groups. Although the flexibility of pursuing an online degree is very attractive to many, the time spent at the computer can be stressful on a student's body.
It’s important to pay attention to the ergonomics of your workspace in order to maximize your physical performance while working on your Marygrove Master in the Art of Teaching (MAT) online program. Ergonomics is defined as, "…the study of the relationship between people, their work and their physical work environment." (United States Occupational Safety & Health Administration, OSHA).
Specifically for students studying online, ergonomics relates to the connection between the physical environment (computer, desk or table, chair, workspace, etc.) and the user. There are many things that online students can do to make the time spent on the computer better for their bodies. Here’s our top ten:
- Properly position the computer. Position the computer monitor so it is close enough to see without straining and perpendicular to any glare causing objects. The keyboard should be at elbow height and the mouse should be positioned near the keyboard.
- Invest in a quality computer chair. Any old chair won't do when studying online! Spend time researching chairs that are specifically designed for computer work and invest in the perfect chair for your body. Ideally, your chair should have armrests, a supportive back, and adjustable height.
- Adjust the height of your desk and chair. The combination of the computer, desk or table, and computer you're working at is very important. Pay particular attention to the heights of each and how varying these may create a better ergonomic workspace.
- Perfect your posture. Sitting up straight and maintaining a 90 degree bend in your elbows may seem unnatural at first, but adjusting your posture to this position is important to long term physical health. Repeated or chronic slumping at the computer screen will cause strain in your lower back, neck, and shoulders.
- Make sure your feet are flat on the floor. When you are adjusting the height of your chair, position it so your feet are able to remain flat on the floor. While working, make sure you are limiting the time spent crossing your legs since this can cause strain on your lower back and hips.
- Stay at your desk. For students working online it is tempting to take your laptop and retreat to another location. Try to avoid moving away from your desk unless you can recreate another ergonomically similar environment. Working while laying down, relaxing on a bed or couch, or sitting on the floor can be hard on your body.
- Take breaks. Your body (and mind) will benefit from short breaks in your online studies. Remaining in a sedentary position for too long can reduce blood flow to your extremities and may cause sleepiness.
- Organize your space. More than just the computer, chair, and desk your workspace also includes shelving, bookcases, and file drawers. Take inventory of your space and consider rearranging it so that necessary items are within arm’s reach.
- Investigate workspace tools. Many students studying online have found various workspace tools to be beneficial to their studies. Consider investing in a wrist pad, document holder, wireless keyboard or mouse, or glare reduction monitor screen. All of these may boost your productivity and comfort while studying online.
- Relax! Your online degree is important, but so is your health. Focus on your physical health and relax while you are at the computer. Make a point of taking breaks from your studies to rest, play, and re-energize!
Now is a great time to register for summer classes! Start your Marygrove MAT program this summer, and realign your career with your long-term goals! Registration is going on now. Classes begin May 7!