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Students’ support networks during lockdown

Project leader(s): 
Victoria Murphy
Theme: 
Faculty: 
WELS
Status: 
Current

Social networks are an invaluable source of support for students; the support received from networks are essential for helping students to maintain mental health during times of stress. In recent months the COVID-19 pandemic has caused society to adapt and change. While at the OU facilities for learning at a distance are well-developed, the wide-ranging demographics of students mean that there are likely to be changes in daily life that could impact studies. Students are likely to need support both academically and emotionally from the OU. There is the need to undertake immediate research to understand what support students are using in these unusual times, and any gaps that the university could potentially address. For this reason we propose a study that will explore STEM students’ support networks at the beginning of the UK’s COVID-19 related lockdown, and how they evolve in the following months. These insights will be useful for considering what support students in stressful situations need in general. Specific aims are to examine:

  1. Who do students turn to for academic or emotional support during times of extreme stress?
  2. Which of the OU’s services do students take advantage of?
  3. Is there any additional support that students would like the OU to provide?
  4. How do these needs change over time?

The study will use techniques from social network analysis in a longitudinal design to explore the answers to these questions. 15 students will be selected to map their networks. Each student will then be interviewed to obtain qualitative details of the nature of the support provided by each person named in their map. This will be repeated again three months later to understand how both their needs and their sources of support have changed.

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