The Guidance and Careers Service published this month the findings of the "How are you doing ?" survey which took the pulse of those who started their studies in September 2020. Interview with head of service Karin Hehlen.
The first steps at the University are a challenge, especially in the context of a global pandemic. The purpose of the phone survey "How are you doing ?" is to gather information on the general state of the beginners at UNIL and to identify possible problems. Carried out each year by the Guidance and Careers Service (SOC) in collaboration with the Federation of UNIL Student Associations (FAE), the survey was conducted from 2 to 25 November among people who had just started their Bachelor's degree. A series of phone interviews were carried out on the basis of a digital questionnaire by around twenty students recruited and trained by the FAE. The 2020 report was published (in French) this month. Interview with Karin Hehlen, Head of the Guidance and Careers Service.
Karin Hehlen, in 2020, the Covid-19 crisis changed the life of the university community. Is this reflected in the results of the survey conducted by your Service?
Yes, more than two thirds of the respondents mention that they are affected or even very affected by this context, notably due to the lack of social contact and uncertainties about the future. Every year, we address themes such as working methods, choice of studies, material situation or psychological state. In 2020, we have seen a decrease in the number of people who believe they have good working methods, whereas this figure is usually stable. When asked the cause of these difficulties, the category "other" was ticked by 11.6% of respondents, who mostly indicated elements related to the health situation in their comments.
And did you notice any change in the overall psychological state?
This year's score is the lowest recorded since 2011 (editor's note: 63% of respondents consider their psychological state to be satisfactory compared to 86.1% in 2011). This does not necessarily mean that it is bad, but that it is worse than usual. Here again, to explain their difficulties, 17% of respondents chose the category "other", mainly referring to the context of social isolation or Covid-19 in general.
Concerning hybrid education, the system seems to be appreciated and well rated. This is rather encouraging!
Completely. However, today this positive evaluation is very much to be balanced, particularly in terms of its duration and in relation to the overall sanitary context. At the time we interviewed them, the students had just started and, for the most part, had not experienced anything other than hybrid teaching. And the study shows that, according to the respondents, if the situation were to continue, this would have an impact on motivation. What emerges, however, is that it is not distance education itself that seems to affect students - there are positive elements to it that were also noted - but rather its collateral effects, such as social isolation. Not being able to see one's study friends, to go out, to relax, is a burden.
What do these results mean for the SOC?
It reminds us of the importance of showing students that we exist and that they can call on us for difficulties in adapting to their studies, stress, reorientation, or for questions about entering the job market. The people we have contacted tell us that the fact that the institution takes the time to call them, to find out how they are doing and to offer them solutions is appreciated. It also allows UNIL to keep a link and to take advantage of the time spent for the survey to inform them about the different tools available. This was all the more important in 2020.
What support tools have been put in place?
The Entraide UNIL space was created during the first wave. It allows you to anonymously request mutual assistance from other students for course notes or other resources. Video tutorials are also offered. They include practical advice and testimonials related to distance learning. These tools are presented on the Study page of the unil.ch/coronavirus site, which is constantly being improved. There, we provide services that offer help in case of financial need, psychological or spiritual support, health problems, administrative questions or questions about studying. For example, the SOC offers individual Zoom consultations with psychologists and counsellors. We also communicate regularly on the accessibility of services to students via the Study newsletter.
Are you going to introduce any new features on the basis of this survey?
In terms of our own service offers, no. We have already increased our availability for our hotlines and all our services have been adapted to be delivered and accessible remotely. On the other hand, we are adapting our vigilance within the framework of our consultations. We discuss the morale situation with the students who come and we try as far as possible to reassure them and send them to the appropriate services.
If you had to pass on a message to students, what would it be?
As a psychologist, I receive people as part of the SOC consultations. What I often explain these days is the importance of keeping a rhythm, a wake-up time, going to bed, so as not to be overwhelmed. And for morale, to set aside time to go out, do some physical activity, and hold on!