Our Students' New Normal
With the spread of the pandemic in Europe, higher education in Austria was very abruptly faced with new challenges. In March 2020, universities and universities of applied sciences had to switch from face-to-face teaching to distance learning. At FH Kufstein Tirol, this change from face-to-face instruction on campus to remote learning by means of video conferencing systems took place within a very short period of time. That said, FH Kufstein Tirol has always put a premium on personal contact with students. This is why, from the very beginning, measures were taken to ensure that our virtual communication with students would have the same quality as communication in our lecture halls. “Thanks to MS Teams, I can get in touch instantly with all my instructors despite social distancing, and it is also possible to have discussions with peers,” says a student of the University of Applied Sciences Kufstein.
With the change in teaching methodology from face-to-face instruction to distance learning, the potential problem of social isolation suddenly gained in prominence. For this reason, it was particularly important to FH Kufstein Tirol to ask its students about their current situation and to be able to assess their mental well-being. This work was carried out by six of its own students with the help of a custom-made online survey. The results of this survey have now been summarized in the form of a study.
THE SURVEY’S RESULTS
The representative study was conducted as a voluntary online survey and targeted the active student population of FH Kufstein Tirol. The topics of the survey covered the influence of the COVID-19 pandemic on levels of satisfaction, students’ social lives, their fears and worries, as well as their personal goals for the future.
Participants were primarily between 18-25 years old (75%). The sample was comprised in equal parts of full-time and part-time students of the University of Applied Sciences Kufstein.
The following results could be determined after a survey period of about three weeks. The students surveyed are generally satisfied with their current situation (57% ‘satisfied’ or ‘very satisfied’); only very few are utterly dissatisfied. In general, it was found that for the majority of respondents, social interaction has become more important than it was before the global pandemic. Specifically, 85% reported that the current situation had made them aware how important social contacts are to them. Furthermore, 66% of the students surveyed stated that personal interaction was important to them, while 37% said they needed daily social contact. However, 49% of the respondents feel that their social life has deteriorated.
Compliance with public health measures and social distancing makes it difficult to maintain personal contacts. For instance, 82% of respondents miss the interaction with their fellow students. That said, the COVID-19 pandemic has led participants to focus on their own well-being, such that 46% of respondents said they consciously monitor and take care of their own well-being. Because 68% of respondents reported a lack physical exercise, they are trying to spend more time in nature.
When it comes to the aspect of fears about their professional future, it is interesting to note that 47% of the students surveyed are anxious, while 53% are confident with regard to their future careers. On a social level, 28% of respondents feel they have been more overwhelmed by crowds since the start of the pandemic, while 70% say they are not afraid of loneliness. On the other hand, there is consensus among the students surveyed that the current situation should not be a reason for increased use of alcohol and/or drugs (77% of respondents). Meanwhile, 48% assume that there will be a return to life without COVID-19. Finally, as many as 65% of respondents report they feel able again to make plans for the future.
Another clear tendency in the data is that a combination of online and face-to-face teaching will be the preferred mode of instruction in the future. Nevertheless, the social aspect is still at the forefront of students’ minds. In the future, respondents would like to spend more time with their family and friends (65%), participate more in cultural activities (47%) and generally live more consciously (67%). Meanwhile, 83% of participants would like to do more sports that are independent of organizational structures and particular locations after the end of lockdown. Similarly, 61% of respondents want to enjoy the outdoors more often and 51% plan to do more sports in general.
AIMS AND BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
The online survey was conducted by a team of students in the degree program Sports, Culture & Event Management at the University of Applied Sciences Kufstein as part of their practical project in the winter semester 2020/21. The aim was to investigate the emotional well-being of students in times of the COVID-19 pandemic.
READY FOR A NEW CHALLENGE?
The University of Applied Sciences Kufstein Tirol offers 24 international degree programs and educates students who become professionals in demand worldwide. Those interested in pursuing a bachelor’s or master’s program can already secure a place for the academic year 2021/22 using the all-online admissions process. The application deadline for bachelor’s degree programs is May 9, 2021, while for master’s programs it is June 24, 2021.