While online learning is working to keep students safe, it can affect their connection to classmates and the rest of the student community. Lethbridge College is responding to these concerns by creating opportunitis for students to connect informally in an online environment, as a tool to improve their mental health.
Students shared their thoughts about their educational experience as part of a survey in September. After analyzing the results, the college identified seven key themes and is acting to improve the student experience. One of the first initiatives is The Student Roundtable, a series of sessions running weekly throughout the semester where students are able to log in and connect with other students in an informal setting.
“Connection and community were top themes identified by students in our September survey,” says Nancy Russell, Dean of Student Affairs. “So our Wellness Services team is working with the Lethbridge College Students’ Association (LCSA) and Accessibility Services to create an environment where students interact outside of the academic setting.”
The Student Roundtable is the result of a two-part initiative to increase connectivity in and out of the classroom. Part one had members of the college’s Wellness Services team visit a variety of virtual classes in the first days of the Winter 2021 semester to facilitate icebreaker activities, start building a connection between students in the class, highlight services that are available to them and reinforce the importance of resiliency.
Part two of the initiative invites students to join weekly virtual roundtables. Each session begins with a short presentation from a service area, such as Accessibility Services, the Learning Café or Wellness Services, and then becomes an informal and open-ended connection opportunity, facilitated by a member of the LCSA. All of the roundtables are designed to help students feel more comfortable and move toward building their network of friends and a community within the college.
“In a classroom, the students would have the opportunity to talk to others and do their own engagement, but it's not as natural in an online setting,” says Ashley Amson, Lethbridge College Health Promotion coordinator. “Students seem to be more shy in that environment, so we recognize there may be challenges with connectivity. It’s all about building community because connected students are motivated students, and it presents better learning outcomes and better mental health when those connections are made.”
The initial roundtables have been held each Wednesday, but the days and times will move around as the semester goes on to give more students the opportunity to be involved.
“The most underrated part of the student experience is the connection students make with each other,” says Tanner Marcer, LCSA Events and Communications coordinator. “The shared experiences students have led to long-lasting friendships and fond memories for a lifetime. The student roundtables are important because they provide students with an opportunity to make the connection they have been missing for the last two semesters. We at the LCSA feel the roundtables foster a community of support and joy that impacts their experience at the college now and in the future.”
Other new student support initiatives include Thriving in Action, a seven-week program focused on the key resilience skills: grit, optimism, gratitude, mindfulness and self-compassion, where students learn academic and personal wellness strategies, and Be Ready Webinars, which help students discover the programs and the services available to them. Students who attend the Be Ready Webinars are eligible to win a $50 Mastercard Prepaid Card.
Students can learn more about all services available to them on the Lethbridge College website.