Positive Digital Practices: supporting positive learner identities and student mental wellbeing in technology-enhanced higher education

Lister, Kate; Riva, Elena; Hartley, Alison; Waterhouse, Philippa; Moller, Naomi; Downes, Leigh; Coughlan, Tim; Kukulska-Hulme, Agnes; McPherson, Elaine; Macdonald, Ian; Jones-Tinsley, Sophie; Brown, Cath and Tudor, Ruth (2024). Positive Digital Practices: supporting positive learner identities and student mental wellbeing in technology-enhanced higher education. Journal of Interactive Media in Education, 2024(1), article no. 5.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.5334/%20jime.831

Abstract

Embedding mental wellbeing in learning is a priority for the UK Higher Education sector, as increasing numbers of students disclose mental health difficulties, challenges and conditions. Technology-enhanced, distance and blended learning is uniquely positioned to make a change for good in the sector; it can provide alternatives to traditional education models, support hard-to-reach students and make positive changes to practice. However, to make positive change, it needs to address the barriers to mental health that are inherent throughout education, and embed student wellbeing throughout its practices, cultures and digital environments. The Positive Digital Practices project aims to scale up existing work on mental wellbeing in technology-enhanced learning, creating resources to support practitioners in three focus areas: Positive Learner Identities - supporting students’ emotional awareness, reflection, resilience in adversity and wellbeing literacy; Positive Digital Communities - supporting students’ sense of belonging and facilitating meaningful connections that do not rely on a campus environment; Positive Digital Pedagogies – creating and sharing pedagogical practices that support mental wellbeing. In this paper, we present baseline data from staff and students on perceptions of barriers and enablers to student mental wellbeing, and we explore examples of positive practice from the Positive Learner Identities work area. We present the participatory co-creation methodologies used, the resources created, and we discuss how these can be applied by practitioners. These resources are a call to action for post-secondary practitioners to work together to enhance student mental health and wellbeing, and make education a more inclusive, equitable experience.

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