Paul Smith, Director of Career Services and Work Integrated Learning
All Sessions by Loyalist College of Applied Arts and Technology
Tuesday, Nov 9, 2021
COVID-19 Service Provision and Communication Variations and Innovations: Vocational and Technical Institutions
2:15 - 3:00
The COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 has resulted in an amplified focus on mental health and wellness and student success for post-secondary education students, educators, and administrators. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) (2004), mental wellness is defined as "a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community (p.1)." Students are managing stressors, that in many circumstances, have reached abnormal levels, as friends and familial relationships, (un)employment anxieties, medical concerns, routines and schedules, and financial roles and responsibilities, among others, have shifted significantly. There is an opportunity to provide leadership regarding mental health and wellness and student success on our campuses, which has been steered by strategic frameworks, planning guides, and task force reports and recommendations. An increase in Canadian post-secondary institutions addressing student mental health and wellness and student success on campuses has resulted in an unprecedented demand for innovative programs and initiatives (Cao et al., 2020; Grubic, 2020; Henry 2020; Shapiro, 2018; Son, Hegde, Smith, Wang, & Sasangohar, 2020). Student engagement and its impacts on student mental health and wellness and student success (academic performance, retention, and graduation completion rates) are well known in the literature across post-secondary education institutions and the pandemic has heightened this necessity (Astin, 1984; Chickering & Gamson, 1987; Marti, 2009; Pascarella & Terenzini, 2005). This research and session showcases a multi-institutional comprehensive research study analyzing service provision and communication variations and innovations during the COVID-19 pandemic supporting student mental health and wellness and student success. A systematic review of Ontario's 24 Colleges of Applied Arts and Technology (CAATs) and Institutes of Technology and Advanced Learning (ITALs) websites, including institutional landing pages and student affairs/services, student life, and campus life divisions' service and support pages were conducted. The analysis reviewed the nomenclature, messaging, and service and support offerings across functional areas (learning supports, careers and professional development, health and wellness, etc.) and revealed organization, communication, calendar, software, and interactive initiatives that are working to maintain student engagement. We will share the resulting sectoral themes and trends alongside the standards and exemplars encountered throughout this timely research. There is limited research within the student affairs/services field focused on the student experience and student affairs/services professionals within our community college and vocational and technical institutions. This research aims to showcase the service provision and communication initiatives implemented throughout the pandemic within this dynamic post-secondary education sector and share relevant resources.