Tackling the searing crisis in student well-being has become a priority for the higher education sector, and holistic “whole academic” approaches have been recognized as the most effective for this complex task.
As part of these multi-pronged strategies, it is important to increase students’ literacy skills in well-being, helping them to better understand what well-being is and to learn to support themselves and themselves. to those in their community.
To meet this need, we have developed an online, open-access module “Understanding Well-Being” which guides students in discovering this crucial concept. The module is open to all students and offers them a safe space and a helping hand to start or continue their own wellness journey.
In this extracurricular academic module, students explore wellness from different disciplinary perspectives, ranging from scientific, economic, psychological and philosophical perspectives, gaining a holistic and interdisciplinary understanding of this complex concept. Students are also supported to engage remotely in activities and strategies that can enhance their well-being, from exercise and art to mindfulness and many more. And, very importantly, they look at the factors that can affect their well-being, from social media and emotions to dealing with failure.
When designing this module, it became evident that only a co-creative approach would allow us to provide an inclusive resource to serve the entire university community, helping students explore wellness at their own pace. , by timing their learning experience according to their own needs. We recognized that the “experts” in student well-being, university life and what works online are the students themselves, and therefore should play a central role in the creation of the module.
Co-creation involves removing traditional hierarchies, with students treated as equal contributors. The co-creation effort allowed us to integrate the experiences and needs of the students from the beginning of the module and to shape its form and content accordingly.
Here’s what we learned in the process:
Tip 1: Co-creation means co-creation
The students who were given the role of “co-creation agents” were involved in every step of the development of the module, and they led the main decisions that led to the final module. The co-creators had a significant agency and voice throughout the process. For example, the learning objectives were established by the agents supported by the staff and in consultation with a large number of students who took the original module in class. These conversations also determined the content of the module, with changes from the original course. For example, a session on social media and wellness was introduced as a result of the consultation.
Officers also decided on the content formats, opting for podcasts that captured conversations between an academic discipline expert and a student about a particular aspect of well-being. Podcasts have been selected so that students can listen to them when it suits them, perhaps while walking or shopping, preparing the module for the time constraints of university life. The co-creators decided to obtain formal HEAR accreditation for the module, in order to highlight the value of well-being literacy for students and to act as an additional incentive for students to enroll.
The agents were also supported and trained by the IT staff as well as an external podcast producer to ensure that they could develop the Moodle resource in its entirety, shaping it according to the recommendations and ideas of the students. As said, co-creation means co-creation!
Tip 2: Co-creation rhymes with negotiation
Students and staff worked collaboratively on the module. The co-creators worked with, not for, academic staff, freed from traditional boundaries and hierarchical constraints. Academic staff also offered regular support as well as computer training and acted as a sounding board, leaving space for the co-creators to discuss and test ideas. As a result, the co-creation exercise was enriching but also prolonged and rich in negotiations, as many student voices were consulted. This process of negotiation, trial and error, and training required a significant investment of time, which should be kept in mind when planning a similar online co-creation project.
Result: Co-creation means better accessibility
Our goal was to make the module welcoming and really accessible to everyone. It was complex because the module is open to thousands of students and participants participate remotely and without direct interaction with their peers. Nonetheless, the negotiation process described allowed us to integrate the voices of a variety of students with different learning styles and needs. He guided the co-creators to develop adequate content in a variety of formats such as the brainstorm and quiz tasks that students undertake as part of the online module and a series of infographics to summarize the content of the podcasts.
Raising the level of well-being literacy among university students is an important step in supporting broader institutional well-being strategies. In open access, the online modules offer a great opportunity to reach a very large audience. Yet it is crucial to integrate the voice of the students when developing these new tools, so that co-creation can be a key to unlocking the potential of these resources.
Staff co-creator Elena Riva is Associate Professor and Director of Studies at the Institute for Advanced Teaching and Learning (IATL) at the University of Warwick.
Student co-creator Wiki Jeglinska is studying for a Masters in Educational Research at the University of Warwick.