Student wellbeing and technostress: critical learning design factors

Authors: Biggins, D. and Holley, D.

Publisher: Association for Learning Developers in Higher Education


In Higher Education, student wellbeing is now the responsibility of all of us. During the COVID pandemic, the pivot by universities to online learning positioned technology as a panacea, and saw students being signposted to digital resources for digital skills and wellbeing support. With digital wellbeing taking on new dimensions, the presentation provided a timely moment to consider how technostress impacts our students. Our use of the concept, technostress, is derived from the Student Minds report (2021) entitled ’Life in a pandemic‘. It refers to the stress experienced by students when using technology within Higher Education, given the sector's expectations of their technical abilities. Our paper reported on the results of a digital health and wellbeing survey (n=103) with surprising responses from 80 students to the survey question about technostress.

The findings indicate students feel let down by teaching staff who struggle with the mediating tools of their online trade, technology, and show little empathy for those they teach. McDougall and Potter (2018) argue that human-centred approaches, prioritizing staff and students’ immediate and lifelong wellbeing, are key to success in developing policies for student wellbeing, rather than the mere use of digital tools.

The presentation focused on the issues identified by students and shares their suggested solutions. The findings indicate that the formulaic approaches offered by academic staff to students in response to their digital health and wellbeing challenges, to ‘go there to be fixed’, will chime with learning developers championing student support as emancipatory practice. Attendees were invited to reflect on their own experience of technostress during the pandemic and share their considerations as to how to widen understanding of this phenomenon. The presentation concluded by recommending an integrated model for framing student wellbeing underpinned with exceptional learning design and considered the optimum on a continuum for the use of technological tools.

Source: Manual