Health and Wellness from a Distance: University Services for Online Students
Friday, September 6, 2019
Health and wellness services for online students are especially essential, as college students are accessing mental health services at increasing rates on college campuses. Today, however, there is also an increasing population of full-time and part-time online university students that do not spend as much time on campus as the traditional student.
What kinds of health and wellness resources do universities offer for their online students?
What health and wellness services should be available for online students?
Barr offers a list of best practices for providing student mental health services online from “Creating Web-Based Student Services for Online Learners” by Pat Shea and Sue Armitage.
- Pre-enrollment services: On the webpages describing online programs and courses, self-assessment tools can be posted for students to evaluate their readiness for online programs. This “front-end” focus on the personality characteristics and work habits necessary for online academic success can assist in preventing problems after admission and enrollment. One study, of mostly online graduate students, found that students most at-risk for dropping out of online courses were those who were less motivated, had less-stable home study environments, and less computer confidence compared to successful online students. These are factors which can stress an enrolled online student and lead to mental health difficulties as coursework progresses.
- Mental health education: Provide links to articles on issues common to college students (e.g. stress, fatigue, depression, anxiety, eating disorders, substance abuse).
- Crisis services: Prominently display phone numbers for crisis and/or suicide hotlines.
- Self-help services: Provide access to tools for self-evaluation, with accompanying articles on strategies for coping with common mental health issues.
- Referral to disability services: Provide links to the institution’s office for students with disabilities. Online students who are new to college may have previously unaddressed disabilities such as attention deficit disorder or learning disabilities. Students with documented diagnoses of mental disorders are entitled to reasonable academic accommodations.
- Counseling services: Provide links to the campus counseling center and clearly state what services are/are not available to distance students. Feedback channels need to be in place to ensure that students or faculty who make inquiries for services receive a personal response.
Are you an online college student looking for resources? Here are three tips.
3 Tips for Online University Students
Preventive measures are key when it comes to mental health, just as with physical health. When long-term stressors build up into an immediate emergency, it can become more challenging to identify effective strategies to address the problem.Pay attention to your stress and what’s going on academically, socially, and personally, and try not to wait until the last minute to ask for help.
Limited distance counseling services do exist. Remember: counseling is just one of many mental health care options. Your university should be able to provide online mental health resources and these resources can come in many forms. They may be self-help support apps, wellness apps, therapy assistance online sites.
While many online students live with others and are involved in their local communities, a student’s support system benefits greatly from the presence of peers who share and can empathize with their university experience.Engage with classmates and instructors live whenever possible, both in and out of the classroom.Try using phone or video conferencing to complete group projects or check in with faculty; it can offer a personal face-to-face experience while saving the extra time it takes to communicate in writing.You can also get involved with peers both on and off campus by joining a student community or organization and connecting with fellow classmates on the Ecampus Learning Community site in Canvas.