Defeating Zoom Fatigue with Open edX

By Jesper Frant | April 19, 2023

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A pen drawing of a woman sitting at a computer looking tired.
DALL-E generated photo.

Editor's Note: This post was co-authored with Caitlyn Ramsey and edited with Microsoft Bing Chat.

It’s September 28, 2020 and COVID deaths have just surpassed one million worldwide. And as you watch the news, your boss sends you an email. You’ve been stuck inside for months watching the pandemic, political unrest, and natural disasters unfold with little to no interaction with anyone outside your bubble, and you’re expected to keep working as normal. And as all of your activities, including work, were forced online, you find yourself realizing something you never would’ve imagined: you are fed up with the internet. You have, as it turns out, a severe case of Zoom fatigue.

Zoom Fatigue has been an unexpected side effect of the pandemic. Individuals are experiencing exhaustion and burnout due to the excessive use of video conferencing calls. To address this issue, innovative platforms are being utilized by promoting engaging interactions and enhancing the overall experience of remote learning and communication. One such platform is Open edX, an open-source learning management system, which supplies a ready-built framework for mitigating Zoom fatigue for programs that deliver training online. Instead of relying solely on video conferences, Open edX enables engaging educational methodologies designed for the internet. Since its founding in 2012, OpenEdX has been used by a wide range of organizations, from institutions of higher education to major corporations, and even national governments. The platform uses a combination of video lectures, interactive exercises, quizzes, and other tools to deliver course content. The open-source nature of Open edX means that anyone can access and use the software, and modify and improve it as needed, without software licenses or subscription costs.

While the pandemic has abated in most regions (or at least been accepted as the new normal), the pre-pandemic “business as usual” where programming is delivered almost exclusively in-person has shifted permanently. In the post-pandemic world, there is a greater reliance on online training as in-person events are not always feasible and are more expensive. Moreover, air travel is a large contributor to climate change putting pressure on organizations to rethink the sustainability of programming that requires frequent international travel. This shift toward convening online has also contributed to the rise in Zoom fatigue as programs attempted to move their programs out of meeting rooms and into Zoom meetings, without fundamentally rethinking program delivery or design. 

Well before the pandemic, NDI hosted its own instance of Open edX ( to offer a wide range of courses aimed at strengthening democratic institutions and promoting citizen participation. These courses cover various topics such as cybersecurity for democracy activists, combatting information manipulation, digital rights advocacy, and best practices for leveraging technology to support democratic development. Some of the courses are self-paced and can be accessed anytime, while others are delivered through virtual classrooms accompanied by live instructors. Additionally, NDI offers customized training programs tailored to specific organizations and contexts. The courses are designed for individuals and groups interested in enhancing their knowledge and skills to effectively engage in democratic processes and advance democratic values.

Recent adopters of Open edX at NDI have used it to turn toolkits or guides, that would historically have been published in PDF format, into engaging multimedia online courses with integrated features that track learner progress and evaluate learning outcomes. 

Edx courses enable engaging online approaches that yield real learning. This, we’ve found, is something that even the most expertly-facilitated Zoom call cannot provide. Courses can have videos, slide shows, text, audio, live broadcasts, or a range of other methods of sharing information. The platform also can facilitate quizzes and evaluations, provide discussion boards and interactive games, and even integrate surveys for post-class feedback. Many people value the credentials that can come with education so NDI worked to improve the open-source OpenEdX software to provide elegant certificates personalized with their information for those who successfully completed a course.

Interest in the online learning platform has recently spiked. Ironically, just as the pandemic is easing, new programs are coming online that are making online methodologies for program delivery central to their approach. This includes the House Democracy Partnership - an initiative of the U.S. Congress supported by the National Democratic Institute and International Republican Institute - which is turning their Legislative Oversight Guide into a series of mini-courses, and NDI’s Movement-Based Parties initiative which is using Open edX to deliver engaging online training at scale.

These new online courses are a positive sign that NDI is moving beyond attempting to deliver via Zoom programs designed to be done in-person. Almost any program that has some educational component can emulate this approach and consider using Open edX to improve their program delivery and learning outcomes. Exceptions may exist in cases where intended learners have high security risk or do not have access to quality internet connections. Any online approach could further the marginalization of groups with limited or no access to the internet. If you're interested in exploring the possibilities of Open edX for your own programs or want to learn more about NDI's use of the platform, I encourage you to visit to see what courses NDI is currently offering and try Open edX for yourself.