Designing Technology-Mediated Peer Support for Postgraduate Research Students at Risk of Loneliness and Isolation

Harrison, Daniel, Rowland, Scarlett, Wood, Gavin, Bakewell, Lyndsey, Petridis, Ioannis, Long, Kiel, Vasileiou, Konstantina, Barnett, Julie, Barreto, Manuela, Wilson, Michael, Lawson, Shaun and Vines, John (2023) Designing Technology-Mediated Peer Support for Postgraduate Research Students at Risk of Loneliness and Isolation. ACM Transactions on Computer-Human Interaction, 30 (1). p. 10. ISSN 1073-0516

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Student mental health and wellbeing have come under increased scrutiny in recent years. Postgraduate research (PGR) students are at risk of experiencing mental health concerns and this, with the often isolated and competitive nature of their work, can impact their sense of community and social connectedness. In response to these concerns, we designed Pears, a system to connect PGR students for regular “pearings” (in-person meetings) and provide activities to promote reflection and conversation. A four-week evaluation of Pears with 15 students highlighted its potential to sometimes, but not always, facilitate peer support. Some participants would instead meet formally and according to their needs, others instead used the system to make new social connections. Additionally, some participants who faced work-related difficulties during the study found using the system contributed to their stress levels. We conclude by noting how technologies that encourage peer support can help build social relationships, providing an avenue to share similar PhD experiences and guidance for those new to the experience, while importantly raising awareness and an understanding for the need to take time for self-care. However, these technologies must be utilised carefully, and are not a replacement for other sources of student support in universities.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: Funding information: This work was supported by RCUK grant ES/M003558/1.
Uncontrolled Keywords: Peer Support, Loneliness, Postgraduate, Student, Isolation
Subjects: C800 Psychology
G600 Software Engineering
L900 Others in Social studies
W200 Design studies
X900 Others in Education
Department: Faculties > Arts, Design and Social Sciences > Design
Faculties > Engineering and Environment > Computer and Information Sciences
Depositing User: John Coen
Date Deposited: 13 May 2022 14:38
Last Modified: 30 Mar 2023 08:00

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