Already, more than 25% of all HE applicants consider an institution’s provision of general mental health and wellbeing services before shortlisting. This number will continue to grow. So quite apart from the institution’s duty of care and the student wellbeing benefits, focusing on improving the experience of your university’s support services is increasingly important when it comes to defining your competitive advantage and differentiating from other providers.
Our last blog discussed the reasons why choosing a dedicated, education-specific support and wellbeing CRM can transform student experiences. So today we look at how universities and VET providers in APAC can use technology to develop teaching, learning and support environments in which students can thrive.
Building learning environments on the five essential pillars of wellbeing (M-BRAC)
Research consistently shows that learning and teaching environments that are intentionally designed to support student mental wellbeing also support academic achievement. To create this winning environment, institutions need to actively foster:
- Autonomous motivation - a key driver of mental wellbeing, it is psychologically nurturing for students to have a sense of owning their actions, and those actions being aligned with their interests, values and goals.
- A sense of belonging - especially important in the early days of university is the need for students to feel accepted and valued by others within their new social groups, and the wider organisation.
- Positive relationships - all students need to feel able to trust, rely on and care for others and experience others trusting, relying on and caring for them to build positive relationships, which contribute to their sense of belonging.
- Experiences of autonomy - students rely on the opportunity to self-choose actions, tasks and goals to establish an authentic sense of self and sense of purpose. Pressure to act or being controlled by others is proven to undermine wellbeing.
- Feelings of competence - students experience competence when they are able to effectively manage their own interactions, tasks and challenges. This pillar of wellbeing is essential to task motivation, engagement, and persistence.
In many cases, providers will need to adopt new teaching practices and learning environments that increase M-BRAC opportunities for students, and embrace the redesign of practices and conditions known to control and de-motivate students. No simple task against the backdrop of funding challenges and the additional barriers presented by the pandemic. However, University of Tasmania (UTAS) is doing just this, focusing on student wellbeing to address the mental health pandemic affecting its students.
University of Tasmania: addressing the mental health pandemic
Having lost two medical students to suicide within six months in 2017/2018, UTAS School of Medicine began work with the Tasmanian University Medical Students’ Society (TUMSS) to better understand student needs and the challenges they experience. This work determined that systemic changes were needed to help medical students better manage their mental health and wellbeing, and so the university instigated a continuous improvement approach to suicide prevention initiatives, informed by students’ experiences and perceptions. In summary, the approach involved:
- Changing the course - incorporating regular time-tabled free periods and introducing greater flexibility in course completion time.
- Putting wellbeing on the curriculum - improving mental health literacy and providing Mental Health First Aid as a compulsory unit of study.
- Improving service access - making modifications to the way counselling services are delivered, the locations from which they are available, and staggering service hours, as well as providing after-hours crisis lines.
- Creating community - fostering camaraderie amongst students through events, including online initiatives during the pandemic to ensure students stayed connected socially and continued the conversation around mental health.
Indeed, the UTAS case study is best practice example of the power of adopting a University Mental Health Framework to develop teaching and learning environments that support student mental wellbeing and academic achievement.
**Please note, UTAS is not a Tribal customer and its inclusion in this blog is in no way an endorsement of the advice shared herein; however the UTAS case study is a great read and a best practice example of the power of adopting a University Mental Health Framework to develop teaching and learning environments that support student mental wellbeing and academic achievement.
Embedding wellbeing best practices with Student Support and Wellbeing CRM platforms
Omni-channel, self-service support, discussed in detail in our last blog, is a vital part of ensuring every student has access to the services they need, when they need them. This access to consistent, up to date support information is also fundamental to improving mental health literacy across the institution. Which is why best-of-breed support and wellbeing solutions now provide resource-rich, dynamic self-help portal environments for students.
When mental health issues escalate, however, a coordinated response from educators and support teams is required to ensure the wellbeing of the student. In these scenarios, education specific support and wellbeing CRM platforms that provide best practice case management can transform student experience by:
- Streamlining the process of requesting and receiving support via a student's chosen channel(s), with self-booking of appointments and automated feedback workflows to capture student satisfaction - preserving customer context throughout,
- Collating all available information (not just disclosed mental health information) on every student throughout their journey with the university in a central record to provide a 360 degree view of the student,
- Enabling support teams to present, report and use joined-up student data even in the most complex of cases, separating them into individual issues which can be intelligently routed across multiple departmental resources through to resolution of the case,
- Promoting (safe and compliant) information sharing beyond the support departments, to assist any member of the university team that liaises with a student with mental health needs, and
- Providing an easy way to audit provision on a regular basis to ensure the quality of interventions and responding appropriately to changes in student need.
The benefits of a dedicated education-specific solution all add up to significantly reducing the administration required to manage enquiries, cases, appointments, and queues ensuring students are given the support they need in time to make a difference; often in real-time. This is the experience that digital native students have come to expect from their service providers - university and VET providers included.
All the benefits of technology - without the noise
Without doubt, technology plays an integral role in bringing about the systemic changes that universities everywhere are now seeking to make to student support and wellbeing services. Used in the right way, technology helps nurture students’ M-BRAC, meet the demand for vital services, and deliver the right-sized support and care where it's needed.
However, technology is also increasingly linked to mental ill health in higher education students, particularly in relation to the Internet and social media consumption. The findings from the recent Mission Australia Youth Survey Report 2021, reveal:
Concerningly, far too many young people’s exercise, screen and sleep habits do not meet the Australian physical activity and exercise guidelines, with more than two thirds (67.4%) reporting less than seven hours of exercise weekly, around three quarters (77.0%) engaging in screen use more than five hours daily and one third (35.7%) using screens for more than nine hours, and around one in five (21.6%) getting six hours or less of sleep a night.
So the success of any program designed to support good mental health, is using technology without adding to the noise and distractions that students already contend with. And key to this is hyper-personalising the student experience, from the very first interaction with the university, through to alumni. This requires HE and VET specific solutions designed to nurture student engagement by:
- Getting their attention - facilitating students’ interaction and engagement with the elements of your curriculum and extra-curricular activities they care about, deepening their sense of connection and increasing retention and success.
- Keeping them on track - enabling teachers, tutors, students and learners to set goals and tasks, and helping them see them through to completion by collaborating through persistent group timelines to post links, tips, hints and reminders.
- Making communication easy - via a safe and secure social network so that staff, students and learners can communicate one to one or in groups, all in real-time. No need to share personal data to connect with others, unlike other messaging apps.
- Helping them develop relationships - by offering students and learners a collaborative space to learn and support each other with in-class activities and self-learning.
- Increasing feedback - engaging students and learners with near-immediate feedback to reassure them of their competence and better inform them ahead of their next lesson, lecture or appointment.
- Connecting all parts of university life - providing deep integration between all your technology to provide quick linking opportunities to your wider campus systems - from the palm of their hand.
For more information and ideas on how to use your support and wellbeing CRM to transform the way your students experience your support services - including ways to integrate it with your existing solutions and future-proof with smarter campus innovations - visit Tribal’s resource hub.