Managing Mental Health During Remote Instruction

Photo by Gery Wibowo / Unsplash

Zoey Jia

National Beat Reporter

As another quarter of remote instruction comes to an end, UC Santa Barbara (UCSB) students report difficulty in handling all their coursework and balancing their studying and personal life. 

In a survey conducted by the nonprofit and mental health organization Active Minds, 56 percent of the participants reported that their daily physical activity levels decreased during the remote quarter. Another 89 percent of students reported feelings of anxiety during the pandemic.

Conrad Qi, a sophomore student majoring in economics, expressed his opinions on the widespread anxiety among college students. “The long-term quarantine also reduces the time to communicate with other family members, which increases the potential for mental health issues,” Qi said. 

“[It’s] easier to feel depressed,” Qi stated. “I spent most of the time alone, and I have to cope with the academic pressure by myself.”

Educational researchers are striving to understand more about students like Qi, and their learning experiences during the pandemic. According to NPR’s interview with Dr. Sandro Galea, an epidemiologist and dean of the School of Public Health at Boston University, there have been studies researching the varied emotional conditions during the pandemic. A study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association analyzed the reports of psychological distress and loneliness among adults in the U.S. and found that these responses were caused by multiple things, such as financial struggle due to COVID-19 or fear of contracting the disease. 

Professor Marie Webb, an English for Multilingual Students (EMS) instructor at UCSB, also agreed that the pandemic was a source of mental distress for many students. “Everybody is struggling during the pandemic period, it could be the anxiety to become an online learner, or the feelings that you are missing out on the first year of college life, or the financial burdens,” Dr. Webb said. 

“[It’s] easier to feel depressed,” Qi explained. “I spent most of the time alone, and I have to cope with the academic pressure by myself.”

Although there are no longer face-to-face interactions during the pandemic, Dr. Webb insists on creating the atmosphere for frequent student-instructor interactions, such as by prerecording video lectures to create more discussion time in her classes at UCSB.

“Students can easily lose the personal sense of connection with other students just because they do not see others’ faces,” Dr. Webb said. 

“What I started to do on my online courses is to ask my students to upload video recordings and discuss it with other students instead of typing out their responses only,” Dr. Webb said. “I found those are usually more in depth, and students just feel like there are stronger connections with other classmates and instructors.”

Yu Zhu, a student in Dr. Webb’s class, confirmed the usefulness of this strategy. “The video responses reduce the text heaviness,” Zhu explained. “I have lots of other classes with a much heavier reading workload and require us to type out discussion forums. But making video responses is definitely easier for me to handle and makes communication among students more accessible.”

“Students can easily lose the personal sense of connection with other students just because they do not see others’ faces.” Dr Webb said.

When Dr. Webb was asked about her course design, she emphasized the significance of happiness and how she and her colleagues applied this concept into the syllabus design. 

“In order to deal with these potential mental health issues, I worked with two other instructors in the EMS program, and we finally decided ‘self care’ or ‘positive psychology’ to be themes of our course,” Dr. Webb said.

“One way for students to stay focused is to remember that happiness is the most important and doing something that makes you happy will help you cope with your academics and other things in life,” Dr. Webb concluded.