The start of the academic year has welcomed the launch of UEA’s new app, OpenUp UEA. The app aims to aid student wellbeing support services, as well as providing students with a platform to manage the challenges of university life.
OpenUp UEA has been developed by 2 UEA School of Psychology staff, Kamena Henshaw and Laura Biggart, with the development process having begun in June 2017. Henshaw and Biggart saw the need for better wellbeing support, after a study by the IPPR think tank reported a fivefold increase in students reporting mental health issues, and a record number of students with mental health problems dropping out of university. OpenUp UEA is focusing on ‘smoothing the transition to university’ and providing tools to help improve ‘emotional resilience’ of students.
The app provides several features designed to assist in supporting students, including an A-Z of support services at UEA and the Norwich area, a detailed campus map, a mood tracker to help recognise a student’s fluctuating mood, a help button (linked to security, nightline, GP, police and Samaritans) and the ability collect anonymised data to improve the services on offer. It’s hoped that as well as supporting those students new to UEA, the app will enable those students who don’t necessarily need clinical help, reduce an accumulating anxiety load and provide ‘effective emotion regulation strategies for students.’
“We identified the need to support students in understanding their feelings and developing problem solving skills as this can help build resilience,” said Laura. “The app also points students in the direction of appropriate help should they need it. We wanted to do this in a way that’s easily accessible, which is why we chose an app.”
James Mason, who is a 22 year-old UEA Computer Science student from Norfolk, was part of the development team. He said: “Universities need to consider that some students are less likely to seek face-to-face support in this digital age, and more likely to use online tools. Digital services should be expanded and made available alongside current systems, reaching out to as many students as possible”.
Speaking to Concrete, Director of UEA’s Student Services Dr. Jon Sharp praised the “very high level of student input to ensure that the final product is accessible and useful for the students who use it.” He added that he hopes the “presence of the app will mean we have more conversations as a University community about these issues”.
Future features of the app that are currently being developed by students include support for budgeting and planning. In addition to this, OpenUpUEA are looking to expand into providing the service for other higher education institutions.
The app is available for download by students and staff on iTunes and Google Play.