Engaging technology and supporting student mental health through connected online peer mentoring
Earle Derek Abrahamson 1 * , Theo Gilbert 1, Daniela Bishop 2, Holly Capocchiano 3
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1 University of Hertfordshire, United Kingdom
2 University of East London, United Kingdom
3 University of Wollongong, United Kingdom
* Corresponding Author


This case study explores the impact of an online peer mentoring programme on student mental health within a widening participation UK higher education institution [HEI]. During the past two years, there has been a drastic transition from face-to-face learning to on-line modes of delivery. Fuelled by the pandemic crisis, the move to online learning has encouraged an innovative and greater use of technologies to connect learners with learning, and content with circumstance. Many students experienced heightened levels of distress and a disconnect from their learning environment. This disconnect and period of isolation often negatively impacted student mental health and created additional problems for those who had to balance learning with adverse life experiences. Whilst the pandemic succeeded to divide, it equally brought opportunities in the form of innovation and engagement through peer mentoring. The peer mentoring programme SMILES (Sports Mentoring Inclusive Learning Experience Scheme) is a widening participation scholarship of teaching and learning project at the University of East London. SMILES has continued to develop and support student success through integrated transition, outreach and more recently on-line networking. The most significant impact statistic was the reach of the SMILES program during the pandemic. Using technologies such as MS TEAMS, Padlets, podcasts (Spotify) and social media (Instagram and Twitter), SMILES was able to provide group support for students not only within the institution but internationally. Through the SMILES project and innovative use of technology, a new mentoring application (app) was developed to support students. The app enables students to view mentor demographics and request specific mentors who align with mentee expectations. During the period June 2019 to December 2021, SMILES increased its reach by 300%. This chapter locates peer mentoring in context by analysing key components of using technology to support mental health on-line. Recommendations for future practice are provided.



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