Day 8: Mental health and employability in online distance learning

The MSc Psychology Conversion Online Distance Learning (ODL) programme at the University of Glasgow is a 30-month, part-time, British Psychological Society (BPS) accredited programme that enables students to pursue a career in psychology and related disciplines on completion of their degree. Jointly taught by the Schools of Psychology and Education the programme continues to see a rise in applications for the course, with the start of the 2021/22 academic year brining another increase in numbers.

Coinciding with this rise in demand for ODL, there has been greater awareness of the merits of online learning. This has been influenced by the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic (Cacault et al., 2021) which has facilitated a broader shift to online teaching across higher education. Notably however, ODL students do not always fit the mould of the typical 19-22 year-old “bricks and mortar” university graduate. They often work full or part time, come from deprived geographical areas, are mature students, have declared a disability, are parents or carers, are in secure environments, and/or are from underrepresented social groups. While some of these attributes may also be relevant to the typical university graduate, personal circumstances often dictate that ODL is the best course of study for some people as it affords greater flexibility.

Much of the scholarship work done within the University is framed within face-to-face teaching contexts, but the extent to which this work can be applied to ODL courses within the University remains uncertain. Recent work has turned attention to how we might adapt our teaching practices in supporting a temporary shift to online teaching during Covid-19 (Nordmann, 2020); however, there is a need to understand how we can best support students on ODL programmes on a more permanent basis.

In this proposed project, we are keen to understand more about ODL student experiences in two particular research strands. The first strand, outlined below, is the impact of distance learning on mental health and well-being whilst studying at the University of Glasgow. The second strand explores ODL students’ approaches in developing employability skills during their studies and the strategies they take when seeking employment at the end of their studies.

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