World events have continued to push wellbeing up the agenda for all UK universities and colleges. It was refreshing to see wellbeing pervade Jisc’s #Digifest2022 conference. From Jisc’s CEO Heidi Fraser-Krauss‘s introductory address and Sir Jim Knight’s excellent keynote to the many workshops in the programme itself.
The transition to online teaching and learning has transformed the student experience throughout the last two years and shone a light on learner wellbeing. Digital transformation is a term loaded with implications. Digital changes are often entwined with organisational culture, workforce behaviours, and strategic aspirations (see Educause’s definition of digital transformation).
But what is the impact on staff and learner wellbeing?
The stresses on learners (and staff) are still being realised, but there’s a plethora of help available!
What resources are available?
I was privileged to host a discussion with my colleague in Jisc, Edward Pull, inviting delegates to share their views.
During the session, delegates discussed their own pressure points and what they are doing to address them.
Defining digital wellbeing
It’s worth noting that ‘digital’ wellbeing is only one aspect to the broader wellbeing debate, and many universities and colleges are developing resources in the round.
Colleagues from Coleg y Cymoedd shared how they had defined the different strands of wellbeing and embedded this into their digital strategy.
Jisc’s briefing papers include guidance on the positive actions individuals can take and good practice principles to support the wellbeing of others.
Starting the conversation
The pressures for staff and students will vary. It’s important to engage in conversations at your organsiation to explore these further.
Middlesbrough College have developed an interactive resource based on Jisc’s digital wellbeing triange. This helps students recognise and reflect on circumstances involving digital technology. Covering both the positive and negative impacts of digital, allows for a richer and more balanced discussion.
Holly Hunt and Scott Hayden at Basingstoke College of Technology shared their digital wellbeing resources which provide staff and students with plenty of ideas. I loved that Scott mentioned how he holds himself to account on Twitter by publishing his screentime!
A range of student-lead approaches have been adopted. Student ambassadors and wellbeing officers are often at the forefront of support.
Colleagues from Abingdon and Witney College discussed how making resources and support groups by students for students faciltated sharing and understanding as it came from peers rather than teachers.
At the Open University, the Our Journey project looks at student emotional awareness and maps their university experiences, which can often go unnoticed.
Addressing digital fatigue
Staff experiencing ‘digital fatigue’ shared examples of how they strike a balance between in person and digital.
Consider having pre-set social days where people meet up to chat. Blocking out focus time in calendars is also helpful to avoid back-to-back online meetings.
Staff understand digital wellbeing is an issue for their learners, but don’t always know how to incorporate this into their lessons.
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