Mark Alexander Williams

Digital Wellbeing

by Mark Williams

I'm particularly interested in Digital Wellbeing as part of the student experience. How do institutions and staff support our learners in considering the impact of technology on themselves? How do students support themselves in this regard? I've recently heard the term 'Cyber Anxiety' to refer to engagement with technology and I think this ties in with the Fear Of Missing Out(FOMO) and Jenkin's Culture of Participation. I was reading the brilliant JISC/NUS Benchmarking Tool to give me some ideas for Focus Groups and Surveys and didn't realise that towards the end there's a section on Digital Wellbeing.

JISC Benchmarking tool

For my study, I thought I'd break down how I think we've been approaching some of this stuff (or not) at Falmouth. Tools like this are incredibly useful in starting conversations and showing others how we can work together across teams/departments and with students. I've already pointed our DVC Teaching & Learning, Head of ICT Strategy and SU President to the document and I'm hoping to start joining the dots in the near future.

First Steps

There isn't much policy around working online, I co-created a policy for a recent community learning experience, but I think at Falmouth this stuff comes mainly from the staff who are perhaps more aware of online learning. In some courses, the concept of the Digital Footprint and Identity is embedded from year one, but from my experience this isn't commonplace and in some cases the Educational Technology team are delivering training on behalf of the course. I think it's great to be offering this in some form and I'm not sure why, but it surprises me each time I talk to a group of students and they tell me that this stuff isn't being taught in schools. Again, I think there's a missing connection between our feeder schools/colleges and the courses (something that is currently being explored by the Digital Student Project). There is however a new CRM tool that's been deployed to help direct students to the right services to talk about wellbeing. Like much instutional technology, it's a proprietary system that is run by the staff, offers a poor User Experience and is closed off, so it doesn't (like a forum might) let students support themselves and each other. It's something though... and it helps cement that there is a physical and online space that students can go to ask for support. There's little transparency regarding student data, though again I've raised this with a group concerned with Learning Analytics. The Open University reported that students increasingly want to know what is being done with the data that the institution gathers about them, though we did submit a project to the JISC Learning Analytics network to support student use of LA


I'm writing whilst reading here, and I hoped to add a bit more about current developments, but I think Falmouth are still making First Steps. It's no bad thing.. there is a way to go, but the Benchmarking tool gives us a useful target and I hope I can be involved in getting us there. There is one innitiative of note though. A Student Union 'Green Living' project and events called the 'Digital Detox Series'. This focusses on removing oneself from the day to day technology that we use and engaging in outdoor making and horticultural activities as a means to improve wellbeing.Digital Detox SeriesThis reaction to technology use may concurr with the notion that student's technology use is mediated by the insitution (Henderson et. al) and that we have to engage with certain things just to navigate the student experience. I think it would be interesting to conduct some interviews to learn a bit more about this area of what JISC are refering to as 'digital capability'.