R & D project

Positive digital practices: supporting mental wellbeing

Funded by the Office for Students, this collaborative project aims to embed and sustain positive practices that support mental wellbeing.


This project was archived on

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2 years


Focusing on part-time, commuter and distance learning students, we will create resources around the themes of positive learner identities, positive digital communities, and positive pedagogies.

Part-time, distance and commuter students

​In 2018-19, over 500,000 students studied part-time; over 600,000 students were classified as commuters and over 370,000 studied at a distance.

It is recognised that these students are ‘harder to hear’ - that different levels of engagement with a campus environment can impact sense of belonging, wellbeing and academic outcomes, and that part time, distance and commuter students can experience barriers to accessing support.

These groups can also be more likely to experience issues with mental wellbeing; in the OU 16,844 students (10%) disclose a mental health issue and have experienced persistent gaps in degree outcomes.

What we're doing

To support mental wellbeing for distance, commuter and part-time students, we will co-create resources and initiatives to scale up positive practices in the three areas of: positive learner identities; positive digital communities; and positive pedagogies.

This project is a collaboration between universities and sector bodies:

  • The Open University leads on positive learner identities, focusing on emotional awareness, encouraging help seeking behaviour, recognising achievements and valuing learning opportunities
  • The University of Bradford leads on positive digital communities, supporting students’ sense of belonging and purpose, informal peer support and meaningful connections that do not rely on a campus environment
  • The University of Warwick leads on positive pedagogies, establishing inclusive, compassionate practices in technology-enhanced learning that support mental wellbeing
  • Jisc leads on sector-wide engagement, drawing on their established cross-disciplinary networks in technology-enhanced learning
  • Student Minds leads on student engagement in the project, facilitating a student panel to steer and guide the project
  • The University Mental Health Advisers Network (UMHAN) leads on the engagement of mental health professionals, bringing expertise from 400 mental health advisors and mentors from 130 institutions

Exploring positive digital practices

Watch a recording of our accessibility clinic on exploring positive digital practices.

Watch a recording of an in-depth workshop on exploring positive digital practices.

Share your feedback

Select the resources you would like to try. Please note that these are pilot materials provided for evaluation and many have been co-produced with students. As these are new, most have not been extensively tested. Resources are not intended to replace or be used as mental health interventions. Unless otherwise stated, you may adapt materials to suit your context.

If you are doing this, please contact Kate Lister klister@arden.ac.uk for the originals. Kate will get in touch with you later to gather your feedback on the resources.

Our project partners

  • Student minds logo
  • The Open University logo
  • University Mental Health Advisers Network (UMHAN) logo
  • University of Bradford
  • University of Warwick logo

Meet the project team

  • Kellie Mote profile image.

    Kellie Mote

    Subject specialist (accessibility)
  • Kate Lister headshot

    Kate Lister

    Principle investigator, Open University
  • Alison Hartley headshot

    Alison Hartley

    Project lead, University of Bradford
  • Elena Riva headshot

    Elena Riva

    Project lead, University of Warwick