Just one in four Bristol undergrads are ‘motivated for online learning’

‘There is little indication that overall student mental health and wellbeing deteriorated in the short-term due to the impact of Covid-19’

Only 21 per cent of Bristol undergraduate students are “motivated for online learning” according to newly released results from Bristol Uni’s Covid-19 educational survey.

A lack of motivation for online learning/research is reflected across the institution, with only 26 per cent of postgraduate taught (PGT) students feeling motivated, and 33 per cent of postgraduate research (PGR) students.

The Covid-19 educational and wellbeing survey was conducted over three weeks in late June and early July, and revealed overall that student mental health was not adversely affected by the first lockdown, however students did not feel motivated to learn online and they missed opportunities for social interaction.

Online Learning

Only 50 per cent or fewer students found it easy to adapt to online learning, however most students felt comfortable using online tools, and felt that they had sufficient access to tutors and teaching staff. The majority of students felt last semester’s online assessment methods were successful, and appropriate to the online environment.

However, only 38 per cent of undergraduates felt they had “sufficient online interaction/communication with other students”, while 44 per cent disagreed.

Additionally, the survey revealed that undergraduates found it hard to adapt to online teaching, with only 38 per cent finding it “easy”, and 43 per cent disagreeing. Only 35 per cent of undergraduates agreed that “The online format allowed me to learn / research effectively”.

Postgraduate responses are very similar to undergraduate responses in these areas, revealing that students across the board had difficulty adapting to online teaching and the lack of in-person contact with other students.

Mental Health

However, responses to the second portion of the survey reveals that the mental health of Bristol Uni students did not deteriorate significantly during the first lockdown period, and depression and anxiety levels among students with and without diagnosed mental health conditions decreased compared to previous years.

58 per cent of students were living at a different address during the summer term, showing that the majority of students remained in Bristol, however those were second year students and up, as only six per cent of students remained in halls. 24 per cent of students said they were “often or always lonely”.

The score for student wellbeing was almost the same as last year. Higher scores indicate better wellbeing, and range between 7 and 35, and this year the average for the university age group was 23. Statistically the results for depression rates have decreased, with a score of 8.5 in 2020 compared to 9.7 in 2019. Nearly all forms of support that the university offers received higher approval ratings this year than in any previous years.

The survey authors wrote: “There is little indication that overall student mental health and wellbeing deteriorated in the short-term due to the impact of Covid-19”, but also said “each student will have faced their own particular set of challenges in a situation that has changed rapidly over the past few months and may well do so again.”

Despite these improving figures, “almost one in three students at Bristol still shows heightened levels of anxiety and low mood”, and also saw “notable entrenched mental health inequalities for some vulnerable student groups”.

It continued: “With one in four students still feeling very isolated, opportunities for social connection will need to be prioritised going forwards.”

Professor Sarah Purdy, Pro Vice-Chancellor for Student Experience, said: “We know that students’ lives, studies and access to support services have been significantly disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic. It was vitally important to capture feedback from students at the start of the summer given they’d just finished the academic year in quite unprecedented circumstances.

“The findings from this survey have been crucial in shaping our response to the pandemic. Not only has it informed our approach to blended learning, with students saying how important face-to-face teaching is to their wellbeing, but it has highlighted the areas in which students need the most support.

“While there are some encouraging findings around mental health and wellbeing, especially around the support we offer, it’s evident that the current situation has exacerbated feelings of loneliness and isolation. Addressing this is a top priority for us as the pandemic continues to impact everyone’s lives.

“New measures introduced to support wellbeing include the ‘Being Well Living Well’ online toolkit. This includes practical tools and tips to help students feel settled, support friends, manage finances and get help if they need it. There are also a range of related self-help resources.

“We are running a range of virtual community building events to help students connect, join in and enjoy shared activities. And our support services have adapted to provide support via phone and online, with our Wellbeing Access service now open 24/7.

“We will continue to seek student feedback during these challenging and fast-evolving times to help ensure we’re supporting our students in the best possible ways.”

Featured and story image credit: Unsplash

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