How to support students remotely in the transition to higher education

Many students are unsure which services and support are available when they go to university, whether this be for a disability related reason or for support for care experienced or mature students.

With the current situation created by Covid-19 meaning that open days and other face-to-face activities to help students find out about these services are being suspended, having a ‘go to’ tool to get tailored information when choosing and preparing to go to their place of study is even more important.

My Study My Way is a platform created by AbilityNet in partnership with ClearTalents to support students at university or on their transition to university.

Easing anxiety with self-help report

My Study My Way logo

My Study My Way allows students to create a profile by answering questions relating to different areas about things they may struggle with or may be anxious about, for example:

  • study skills,
  • time management and organisation,
  • social and financial aspects.

Based on an individual's responses they will be provided with a self-help report detailing what support is available and other beneficial resources, to give them confidence to take the steps to progress to university knowing that their needs will be supported.

This report can be something that they use themselves to find out more or they might want to share it with someone else to discuss their needs and think about what to do next.

Identifying needs of 'Care Experienced' students

Karen Western, Widening Access Officer at Brunel University, has been using My Study My Way with her Care Experienced students and has found that it can start conversations that might not have otherwise arisen. One student shared that she found it difficult going into new buildings, but had not said this to anyone else and did not come across as a nervous student to her personal advisor. With the use of My Study My Way helping to bring the issues to the fore, measures were able to be put in place to help the student gain confidence about visiting new places. 

A second student had written that she was struggling at college and wanted to drop out. This was a student who was achieving well, so having this information via My Study My Way enabled her team to provide more support and attention to work out why there were problems at college. Six months on this student is still at college and has some ambitious goals for the future.

My Study My Way is an incredibly valuable mechanism to offer students the opportunity to share what they wish with the professional they choose.

University-wide tailored guidance platform for students

Individual students can use the free version of My Study My Way, but institutions can opt to have a version with aspects specific to them. In the latter case, the guidance provided by My Study My Way can be tailored to the institution and therefore your new students will know where and who they can contact as needed.

A tool like My Study My Way can help identify support options for students looking for help with study skills, technology, study environment and space, social life and communication issues. 

See here for a short video that explains how My Study My Way works. 

Would you like to find out more about My Study My Way? Get in touch for a demo: Email Helen Wickes at AbilityNet.

Research about student belonging

Kate Lister, Accessibility Manager from Open University (OU), has been studying for a doctorate about mental wellbeing in distance learning, and says "Although at the OU there is a lot of provision set up for student communication, socialising and support, we do still have students who feel isolated."  

"Many of those students who feel isolated aren’t actually looking for community, rather they’ve talked about how important it is to feel like someone cares about them, for example having a regular email from the university checking they’re okay and cheering them on from time to time. A lot of our tutors do do this, but it's not a standard requirement, and I think it’s important to have those options – community (for those who choose it) and the personal touch," she says.

"It’s not enough to mop up mental health with tokenistic measures, we need to listen to what is really causing the students' problems and try to start changing some of our creaky old toxic systems," says Kate. She continues:

"Inclusive curriculum/assessment design plays a big role in maintaining wellbeing, too. Activities like groupwork and assessment design and scheduling remain the biggest triggers for mental health crises. And it’s a personal bugbear of mine that academia does a lot of placating around mental health (pet therapy days, mindfulness sessions) without doing ANYTHING about the systemic issues (hierarchical knowledge culture, student workload, assessment design and scheduling, administrative burden and so on.) "

See Kate's recent blog on our website about how her university embeds digital accessibility very successfully.

Do you need help with your digital accessibility strategy at your institution? Meet your users' needs by building accessibility knowledge in-house. Speak to our experts to find out about our services.

How AbilityNet can help

AbilityNet provides a range of free services to help disabled people and older people. If you can afford it, please donate to help us support older and disabled people through technology