Barriers and Enablers to Mental Wellbeing in Distance Learning: Staff and Student Perspectives

Lister, Kate (2021). Barriers and Enablers to Mental Wellbeing in Distance Learning: Staff and Student Perspectives. EURODL (European Journal of Open, Distance and E-Learning) (In press).

Abstract

Student mental health is a critical issue in higher education. There are sector-wide concerns about impacts of mental health difficulties on students’ degree outcomes, and impacts of higher education practices on student wellbeing. Sector bodies are increasingly calling for ‘whole institution’ approaches to embedding student mental wellbeing in higher education, but there is a lack of consensus about what approaches may look like, particularly in distance learning environments where there is limited literature on barriers and enablers to student mental wellbeing.
This paper reports on a UK study in a distance learning institution. Building on a previous study, staff and students took part in focus groups (N=116) to collectively identify barriers and enablers to student mental wellbeing, and solutions that could be embedded throughout distance learning practice. Barriers and enablers to wellbeing were found to reside within curriculum, tuition, assessment, study skills, self-management skills, social skills, life circumstances, systems, people and spaces. A wide range of solutions for these barriers were suggested, including changes to tuition strategies, curriculum, communications, systems, and study skills.

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