TreSilienssi created new student wellbeing practices and focused on support services
“The TreSilienssi project, which started with the Ministry of Education and Culture’s special funding in spring 2021, is about to end in summer 2022. The project participants are now reporting the completed measures to the ministry,” states Project Coordinator Mikko Salminen.
The TreSilienssi project originated when several studies showed that the Covid-19 time was difficult for higher education students. The traditional teaching went online, campuses were closed and social contacts decreased significantly. Tampere University and Tampere University of Applied Sciences started working on the joint project application towards the end of 2020 and the TreSilienssi project fully started in March 2021. The closest cooperation partners were the student unions Tamko and TREY.
Project Coordinator Alina Suni tells that the cross-cutting themes of the project were experimentation, piloting and evaluation.
“TreSilienssi introduced a variety of service concepts, such as TAMK’s Parvi and Tampere University’s Student’s Compass, into the everyday life of the higher education institutions. TreSilienssi also implemented many individual and group activities and strengthened resources of existing support forms.”
Towards more diverse and accessible support services
The pandemic clearly weakened students’ wellbeing and mental health. TreSilienssi found diverse ways of responding to the challenges.
“For example, peer support is a resource which is not yet used enough,” says Project Manager Jasmin Rantanen from Tampere University.
“Because peer students are important for student wellbeing, engagement in studies and academic progress, it was important for us to develop peer support for the whole study time. The developed peer support measures were diverse.”
Students’ competences and professional development possibilities were used in the TreSilienssi project. Students practised their study skills in workshops, participated in friend activities or mental wellbeing groups and discussed in student groups. Tampere University introduced self-study materials and wellbeing courses as a part of the Student’s Compass online tool. TAMK invested in online courses which supported mental wellbeing and combined self-study and group work.
Feedback surveys showed that students were often challenged by lack of study skills. TreSilienssi expanded teaching of study skills and peer support.
“TAMK successfully experimented peer supervisors as support in mathematics workshops for engineering students, medical calculation workshops for health care students and on Swedish courses. Development and expansion of peer support were identified as a clear cooperation form and they will have an even more important role in the new wellbeing projects,” states Project Manager Irmeli Nieminen.
Wellbeing requires the whole community’s effort
TreSilienssi opened the possibility to develop and experiment a procedure for supporting students’ learning and wellbeing in both the higher education institutions. At TAMK, counselling and support for students’ learning and wellbeing were gathered under the Parvi concept. The university used the Navigaattori concept. The core idea of both the concepts was however the same: bring support services closer to students and offer related information in one place. Both Parvi and Navigaattori will remain a part of the higher education institutions’ everyday life.
In addition to the new openings, project resources were allocated to already existing support processes, especially strengthening of individual support and counselling. The project funding made it possible to recruit a new student wellbeing adviser to TAMK. Her work has proved valuable. The university directed additional resources to study psychology services, which were increasingly needed during the pandemic.
Communality was maintained through institutional and cooperation partners’ events when possible. Student associations’ role was indispensable. It was supported by offering financial support for Tamko’s and TREY’s events and other wellbeing activities. The project participants organised trips as well as communal campus and city tours. New sports possibilities were invented with SportUni. TAMK’s Pastor Jussi Houttu participated actively in the trips and events.
“Student feedbacks demonstrate that studies progressed better, study-related stress and malaise decreased, sense of communality improved and loneliness decreased during the project,” Irmeli Nieminen summarises the project impacts.
TreSilienssi continues with new wellbeing projects
The prolonged pandemic made the Ministry of Education and Culture open another special funding round for Finnish higher education institutions in autumn 2021. The ministry aims at supporting higher education institutions in evening out students’ shortcomings in learning and strengthening support for academic progress, counselling and student wellbeing in the middle of the pandemic.
Both Tampere University and Tampere University of Applied Sciences applied for the project funding.
“Even if both TAMK and university students often have similar needs for support, there are also many everyday differences between the houses,” tells Alina Suni.
“For example, group centredness of the university of applied sciences makes related support forms possible whereas university students’ everyday life is often less bound to a specific peer group.”
Cooperation between the new projects will however be strong. The higher education institutions want to continue their successful practices but there is also room for new openings. Teachings so far help in refining the support services to a part of the higher education institutions’ everyday life – the new normal.