Updated: Sep 15
2020 was a year of challenge and change for students globally. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed education dramatically with the forced migration from in person to online learning, and the uncertainty for students is expected to continue well into 2021.
To help our network establish some clarity around how they can best support their students, we asked our students across the globe, “What is one thing that your university could do to improve your experience studying in the pandemic in 2021?”.
We have outlined below the 4 key ways students want support from their university during the pandemic and beyond.
1. Increase accessibility for all students
Similarly to the findings in the Don’t Drop Out survey by WONKHE (UK Wide), students have expressed their desire for more face to face time with staff. Student suggestions included having more one to one sessions available for those who are struggling and more flexible hours to ask questions.
As a way of tackling both this accessibility to professors and the lack of social interactions students are facing, a solution could be a dedicated 1–2 hours a week to hold ‘virtual office hours’ with students through an online platform such as Zoom. Students would be able to join to listen and ask academic questions or start a discussion with each other.
In the same way, having greater accessibility to course materials across the board, all classes recorded and resources available for an extended period of time is something that students would find beneficial. While they expressed that this level of accessibility is available across some of their papers, it is clear that this is not consistent throughout programs and eliminating this inconsistency would be helpful in reducing overall anxiety. For those international students who have returned to their home countries, this flexibility would mean these students would not be disadvantaged with having to join online classes at unusual hours.
2. A Safety Net/No Detriment Policy would help manage anxiety
The 2020 and 2021 cohort of students may be experiencing the worst disruption to their higher education for a generation, faced with the expectation to produce the same quality of work as pre-Covid. A stand out response from students was the introduction/reintroduction of a safety net or no detriment policy. It was clear that students crave assurances to give them confidence in undertaking their exams and assessments, protect their grades and help mitigate the challenges of studying during the pandemic.
3. Help for those struggling with IT
Students feel that there is an expectation from their place of study that they are IT savvy and will know how to use/navigate online platforms. They report that there is a lack of understanding/no training in place for those that need to build their IT knowledge and as a result they feel isolated and disadvantaged. Offering additional resources and ensuring students are equipped with the tools they need will help to ease the angst around remote work.
“When searching for guidance on how to take open book exams I felt my university provided only very broad and general pointers in comparison to other universities who provided recorded video clips, PDFs and YouTube links to further tips” — TalkCampus student.
4. Boosting Student Connectivity would support with isolation
We know that it is crucial for students to feel connected to a supportive community to help support their well-being. Amidst the remote learning environment and closure of communal university areas such as libraries, loneliness and distress felt by students has been amplified. Feedback from students suggested that adapting the curricula to include more collaborative work between students would be valuable. These insights were consistent with the recent Don’t Drop Out survey by Wonkhe (UK Wide) , which saw the top negative response from students focussed around student interaction, and highlighted that students are not unhappy with online learning per se, but rather that it fails to provide social interaction.
Group work can help to build community and a sense of belonging, which is particularly important when students may be physically distant from each other. Although the pandemic would add additional complexities to the traditional ‘group project’, adapting curriculum to include peer to peer interactions through collaboration or idea sharing sessions via virtual hubs or other means would help to boost confidence and create a greater sense of belonging.
TalkCampus is a world first global peer support community for students that provides your entire student body with support anytime of day, anywhere in the world. Instant, ongoing support that relieves pressure on your student services, helps manage counselling wait times and integrates with your current services.
Students are part of a safe, supportive, community built from the ground up for mental health combining real-time 24/7 safeguarding and escalation, trained peer supporters and professional staff. Bilingual support ensures they can open up in their own language and helps international students and those studying abroad.