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Newest TU/e Corona monitoring report indicates small deterioration of students’ well-being

Friday, 14 May 2021

The third report of the ‘Corona Monitoring and Student Learning' project at TU/e examines changes in students’ well-being during the first half of the academic study year 2020/21. It looks at factors related to well-being, and exam anxiety in proctored versus non-proctored exams. The data were collected in Q2 (well-being also in Q1) among a random sample of Bachelor's and Master's students at the Faculty of Industrial Engineering & Innovation Sciences. The findings showed a small deterioration of student well-being from Q1 to Q2 on almost all indicators. University teachers can react to this situation by making sure that in their courses, students experience enough autonomy in their learning processes as this seems to motivate them.

Small, but remarkable deterioration of students’ well-being across study quarters

While feelings of loneliness did not change across the two quarters, students showed small, but consistent differences in an undesirable direction on all other dimensions of well-being. They experienced, among others, somewhat more often feelings of burnout, depression, and a lack of study engagement. For some students, the gradual changes culminated such that they suffered considerably from symptoms. For instance, twenty percent of the students reported showing symptoms of burnout quite intensively.

Factors influencing students’ well-being: home issues and autonomy in learning

Just like in the earlier report on the findings in Q1, in Q2 two factors influenced symptoms of students’ well-being in a very systematic manner. First, in Q2, the home was the central place for students to learn. Accordingly, students who reported experiencing more issues at home scored lower on all dimensions of well-being. These home issues include lack of a suitable study space, connectivity problems, care for family members, and more. Second, students who experienced during their course more autonomy in their learning activities scored higher on all dimensions of well-being. Typically, a higher autonomy refers to courses where students have some choice opportunities and do not feel overwhelmed by too many deadlines.

Exam anxiety

The average students felt quite confident in their ability to deal with their exams. Students showed a moderate degree of test anxiety and were only slightly more nervous about their exams than they were about their exams before the Corona transition. At the same time, there is much variety among students concerning test anxiety and nervousness. About twenty-one percent of the students reported having had symptoms of text anxiety to a problematic degree. Students who participated in a proctored exam suffered somewhat more from test anxiety and felt less confident about their ability to cope with the exam.

Conclusions

It can be concluded that during the long period of online learning under the constraints of Corona-safety measures, the well-being of students suffered somewhat. University teachers can react to this situation by making sure that in their courses, students experience enough autonomy in their learning processes as this seems to motivate them. An increase in learning motivation may strengthen resilience. University administrators can ensure that enough study spaces are available on the local campus for students so that their learning is not hampered by restrictions in their home environment. The latter measure, of course, has to take into account the safety regulations during the epidemic. Furthermore, to reduce test anxiety among students, online proctoring could either be limited or redesigned in such a way that students feel more able to cope with it. Teachers could devote some more time to informing students in detail and much in advance about the test or offer exercising opportunities.

Follow up

In this project, the researchers plan to combine the existing student survey data with data about course characteristics which may lead to more concrete suggestions on how online teaching could be improved. Importantly, taking into account privacy regulations, they are busy collecting click-stream data from Canvas and will combine these with the existing data sets to develop more concrete recommendations. Furthermore, in a final report, they will offer recommendations for the long-term adjustments of the TU/e education and student support, taking into account the TU/e 2030 strategy.

Read the latest report named: ‘Express report 3’ on the 4TU.CEE Innovation map.