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Home situation issues and autonomy in courses affect student well-being

Monday, 22 March 2021

The second report on the Corona Transition and Student Learning project at TU/e focuses on student well-being and influencing factors. The study was conducted in Q1 (after the summer break) among students enrolled in the bachelor’s and master’s programmes at the Industrial Engineering and Innovation Sciences department. The research showed that home situation issues and autonomy in courses affect student well-being.


Feelings of loneliness decreased

Compared to the findings from Q3/Q4 that were covered in the first report, no substantial changes were identified in various aspects of student well-being (study engagement, burnout/exhaustion, depression, worrying, concentration problems, and amotivation). Usually, up to 15 percent of the students report problematic scores. Only feelings of loneliness decreased substantially, which might have been due to the slightly relaxed COVID-19 regulations in the summer and the introduction of on-campus activities in Q1.


Factors influencing student well-being

The researchers also investigated several factors that could influence student well-being. These include home situation issues, students’ learning strategies (such as time management and persistence), students’ resource-seeking (from fellow students, teachers, and online sources), and course-related factors (teacher communication & support, autonomy). Two factors stood out as the most important ones. Firstly, home situation issues were associated with increased problems on almost all well-being aspects of which the relations with depression, worrying, and amotivation were the strongest ones. Secondly, a higher degree of autonomy in courses is associated with higher scores on all well-being aspects. Autonomy involves the possibility to decide when to study and what to work on during the course weeks, and not being confronted with too many deadlines. Students that reported higher autonomy were typically more engaged and experienced lower burnout/exhaustion.


Differences amongst students
The researchers also looked into differences among different categories of students. It turns out that female students reported more home issues (in particular a lack of dedicated study space) and lower perceived autonomy in courses than male students did. International students experienced more home issues (such as caring for family members) than domestic students did. They also showed less persistence in learning and sought fewer online resources. Female and international students experienced higher levels of exhaustion/burnout, depression, and worrying than male Dutch students.


It can be concluded that, after the summer break, a minority of students experience substantial well-being issues. In particular, female and international students appear to be vulnerable due to a more problematic home situation. This issue is difficult to address as some solutions (such as offering more students the opportunity to work on campus) are dependent on COVID-19 restrictions. Nevertheless, helping students in their time management, creating more autonomy for students in courses, and making it easier for students to get help from fellow students and teachers can reduce well-being problems.



The third and final report will focus on how student well-being has evolved during a year of primarily online learning. The researchers will also provide findings on student experiences with online exams, both regular and proctored, which were a key feature of online education during the pandemic.


Find out more about the Corona Transition and Student Learning project and download the reports on the 4TU.CEE Innovation Map.