Students are not left alone during the pandemic – support measures are developed at Tampere Universities
In October, the Ministry of Education and Culture offered special funding for application to support student counselling and wellbeing during the corona pandemic. This was done because students’ symptoms and loneliness had increased and social resources decreased.
The project was welcomed by both the higher education institutions and their student unions.
“This is a great opportunity to support our students and the universities community in coping with the stress caused by remote learning,” Head of Learning and Wellbeing Services Merja Hanhimäki from Tampere University of Applied Sciences rejoices.
Special attention will be paid on supporting students’ academic progress and increasing their community spirit.
“The project enables additional support of student wellbeing as well as continuation of teachers’ pedagogical support and dissemination of good practices,” Head of Services Suvi-Päivikki Ikonen from Tampere University tells.
“Many people have contacted us. They want to join the work for the good of students. This is a great project because we implement it together with the student unions. A lot of good has already taken place but the project gives us the possibility to develop and strengthen our support forms,” Project Manager Irmeli Nieminen from TAMK tells.
Every TAMK student is contacted
All students were contacted by text message at the end of March. The message allowed students to request for a further contact in which case they were informed of the different support and service alternatives.
“Teacher tutors of all student groups try to reach their students and have a planning and supervision discussion with them as in previous years. If the teacher tutor does not succeed in contacting a student, the student counsellor, pastor or TreSilienssi project staff tries to reach the student. We ask how the student is doing and refer the student to the right person if support is needed,” Hanhimäki tells.
According to Head of Learning and Wellbeing Services Merja Hanhimäki, TAMK’s aim is to reach every student.
Plenty of useful student activities are already under way and support for studies and leisure is available. The measures are now gathered to a single place where students can find and actively participate in them.
“At the end of last year, TAMK published a platform called Koppari. Students can easily find needed services through the platform. Their needs can be related to studying, personal relationships, health or finance. Next autumn, TAMK will introduce Navigaattori which is a low-threshold guidance and support service concept.”
TAMK’s first- and second-year student groups are met
Even if most students do well, the universities community has recognised that first- and second-year students are in the most vulnerable situation. The aim is to meet all TAMK’s first- and second-year student groups during the TreSilienssi project.
“We use a short survey to ask them how they are doing and tell what support we can offer. In this way, support can also be tailored for the groups based on their needs, for example stress management. Fortunately, all students have had some contact teaching even if it has been very limited. Engagement in the community is important but not easy in the current situation,” Nieminen tells.
Group activities start at TAMK
Students have a high need for meeting other students and people.
The first groups started at the beginning of April. They focus on support of studying, life management and leisure activities. In the groups, experts or peer students meet students safely face to face, for example outdoors.
“We will particularly tackle learning challenges and management of everyday life. There will be a group for students who feel themselves lonely and a group where students can have support for their study-related assignments. Special needs teachers support students in learning and thesis challenges. Relaxation and mindfulness groups are being planned for worriers and timid students,” Nieminen tells.
The number of groups and amount of individual counselling can be increased during the spring when a second student wellbeing advisor will start at TAMK with the project funding.
Tampere University contacts students in the spring
Tampere University will first reach for students who have potential progress challenges or experience stress or fatigue.
“We will first contact bachelor’s degree students and thereafter master’s degree students. In addition, we just made a survey for second- and fourth-year students on their wellbeing and studying. It will give us up-to-date information on students’ wellbeing and allows students to request for contacting,” Suvi-Päivikki Ikonen says.
More individual and group counselling models
A low-threshold guidance service called Navigaattori, which started in autumn 2020, picked up steam from the TreSilienssi project at Tampere University. The service gathers together the university’s counselling services, student union experts and external support services and includes group activities where students can develop their study skills, among other things.
“Along with TreSilienssi, we will invest in students’ leisure possibilities by supporting student societies within the student union and highlight learning lab activities,” Suvi-Päivikki Ikonen tells.
New counsellors and services to support life skills and study skills
Tampere University will introduce an online tool called Student’s Compass in April-May. It offers students round-the-clock service for development of wellbeing and life skills, Ikonen tells.
“The tool is based on independent work but we will also offer individual and group counselling in cooperation with psychology students to support its use. The project allows us to hire student counsellors, psychologist trainees and a counselling specialist to respond to the growing need for counselling,” Ikonen rejoices.
TreSilienssi project’s website: https://www.tuni.fi/en/research/tresilienssi-supporting-students-well-being-strong-cooperation-and-guidance
Project Manager Irmeli Nieminen, Senior Lecturer, Student Counsellor, Tampere University of Applied Sciences, irmeli.nieminen [at] tuni.fi
Head of Learning and Wellbeing Services Merja Hanhimäki, Tampere University of Applied Sciences, Education and Learning Services, merja.hanhimaki [at] tuni.fi
Head of Services Suvi-Päivikki Ikonen, Education and Learning, Tampere University, suvi.ikonen [at] tuni.fi
Photos: Emmi Suominen