“Can Edtech help with student wellbeing and mental health?” This is the question Mary Curnock Cook discusses in her blog post for HEPI last week.
As Mary says, it’s early days in the adoption of EdTech within HE institutions for student wellbeing and engagement purposes. There’s still much to learn about the role digital services can play. Crucially, EdTech should not be considered as a stand-alone solution to improving wellbeing and engagement. Digital services should be integrated as one part of a university’s wider support offering. When this is the case, technology can prove valuable in helping to support students with university life.
Key features of EdTech that can help to support student wellbeing
The nature of technology is that it provides information on-demand. The number of UK mobile phone users is at an all-time high. Consequently, we have all become accustomed to immediate satisfaction. We no longer look to books or other sources for answers; we have a wealth of knowledge in our pockets.
By this same logic, technology can provide individuals with supportive wellbeing content, as well as signpost to other services when needed.
The fact is that 95% of Gen Z owns a smartphone and spends an average of 5 hours per day on their mobiles. One way to support and engage with students is to reach them where they’re active – and that’s online.
Consistency and Regularity
Using technology alleviates the need for manual facilitation. The same action can be programmed to happen at the same time, without human involvement. For example, digital services can prompt students to take the time to reflect on their wellbeing and state of mind.
Wellbeing and mental health is nuanced. There may be no two students who are feeling exactly the same way. For support to be as relevant as possible, it should be tailored to each student. This would take significant time and resource to do manually, while algorithms can deliver information, signposting and articles individually personalised to unlimited numbers of students.
Feasibility and Anonymity
Technology can be used to provide all students with a low effort way to speak up. Perhaps to express problems and anxieties, as well as make suggestions to improve their experience.
It’s more likely that students will deliver feedback if they have the option to remain anonymous. This will encourage even the most reluctant of students to have their say. As a result, feedback will come from a wider range of students, not just from the most forthcoming and outspoken individuals.
Facilitation of Dialogue
As well as giving students a platform for delivering feedback, technology can also be used to facilitate open dialogue between university and student. To take this one step further, it’s ideal if students can see each other’s comments and show support for the ideas of peers. This can encourage a sense of community among students. Additionally, it will help the university to prioritise feedback. This isn’t possible if student feedback is siloed in a one-on-one conversation or in a private email thread.
Collection of Data
Not only can technology be used to provide students with ongoing, tailored support, but also to supply universities with data. This data can then be used to take proactive steps towards improvement. With an ongoing way of measuring student engagement and wellbeing, universities can gain the knowledge needed to support students as fully as possible. There are so many possibilities for data interpretation, including the segmentation of courses, cohorts and socio-demographic groups. This way, universities can ensure that the needs of everyone are addressed.
EdTech for student engagement and wellbeing: An important consideration for HE
Other industries are already using these technological features to support wellbeing and mental health – for example, with employee engagement tools. There’s no reason why higher education shouldn’t do the same. With worries about students’ mental health at the forefront, it’s the right time for the sector to welcome any developments that can contribute and consider the positive role that EdTech can play in taking a proactive approach to supporting student wellbeing and engagement.
Find out more about how Enlitened uses technology to support student wellbeing and engagement here.