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Nicole Lotz and Muriel Sippel, Enabling distance design students’ wellbeing. eSTEeM Final Report.pdf (768.27 kB)

Final Report: Enabling distance design students’ wellbeing

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posted on 2024-02-05, 12:57 authored by Nicole LotzNicole Lotz, Muriel Sippel

Retention and attainment of students with a mental health disability on Design modules is poor compared to other qualifications in Engineering and Innovation, STEM.

Understanding changes to student wellbeing on design modules in a distance higher education setting is difficult. Previous research suggested that environmental, study- and skills related barriers impact on the wellbeing of learners at the distance.

This study sought to understand the experiences of barriers and what enabled design students’ wellbeing at a distance.

Design education relies heavily on problem and project-based learning and design projects also tend to become more complex at higher levels of study.

The project aimed to:

· Gain a deeper understanding of the specific issues (barriers enablers and tensions between those) experienced by Design students with mental health disabilities throughout their study.

· Develop recommendations that could inform the learning design of modules in production and positive interventions in presentation to reduce the awarding gap and facilitate progression in Design.

We were particularly interested in how the intersecting factors of discipline, personal circumstances and support received during their studies from the OU and elsewhere impacted on the retention and attainment of students with a mental health disability on the core Design modules at levels 1 to 3: specifically U101, T217 and T317.

The study identifies avenues to balance tensions between conflicting experiences of studying design and maintaining wellbeing that our participants disclosed in a longitudinal, qualitative study using repeat interviews, experience sampling and a diary study. The findings provide insights from the learners’ perspectives. Students reported strategies on how to deal with open-ended design projects and how to cope with feedback. They revealed how they currently seek and receive support for design work and wellbeing. We uncovered how learners keep to deadlines and how they approach social learning. The study also exposed enabling study rhythms to facilitate creative flow and how creative environments are set up in the learners’ homes.





  • Public document

Authorship group

  • Academic - Central
  • Associate Lecturers

Institutional priority category

  • Equality, Diversity and Inclusion


  • Mental Health
  • Student Experience

Subject discipline

  • Design
  • Engineering

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