Online support system for students in higher education: Proof-of-concept study.


Background Providing support to the increasing numbers of students facing mental health difficulties in higher education (HE) can be difficult due to stigma or lack of resources. Alternative and/or complementary sources of support are needed, such as online interventions that are recognised for their therapeutic value and cost-effectiveness. Objectives We aim to provide evidence supporting the conceptual and practical value of a newly developed online multimedia intervention system for HE students who face mild to moderate symptoms of anxiety and depression and study-skills difficulties. Methods Students from five universities were invited to participate in a cross-sectional proof-of-concept study. Students were invited through the universities' internal communication channels. Following demonstration of each part of the system, students completed a survey with quantitative and qualitative questions. Results Response was largely positive. Positive responses on the features of the questionnaire ranged between 65% and 86%; on the features of the workshops ranged between 57% and 91%; on ‘My place’ ranged between 65% and 79%; on the animated videos ranged between 79% and 92%; and on the overall system ranged between 78% and 89%. Participants indicated areas for improvement and ways in which such improvement could be accomplished; these then guided the development of the system. Conclusions The results confirm the need for such a system. It can complement student support services (SSS) by dealing with cases with mild to moderate difficulties, hence allowing SSS to prioritise and effectively address more severe cases. Potentially this method can provide a meaningful alternative to SSS; this is worth investigating further.

Digital health