WELLS course piloting in international higher education contexts – China and Belgium

In the current WELLS research to business project, one of the central aims is to pilot the course in international higher education contexts and investigate its effectiveness and development needs in different cultures.
Piloting in China

Since 2017, the WELLS project has focused on developing a research-based well-being and study skills course for higher education students. The results so far have demonstrated that the course is effective in supporting students’ wellbeing and study skills in a variety of ways. Through WELLS’ own master’s student Ying Yang, we were able to raise interest in the WELLS course in two universities in Shanghai and Beijing. In the summer (June/July) of 2023, we conducted a small pilot for both universities through the University of Helsinki’s MOOC course platform. All in all, 14 participants took part in the pilot. The course was offered mainly in English, although small parts of the course were translated into Chinese. Ying Yang is currently writing her master’s thesis on the effects of the course based on this pilot. The preliminary results would suggest that students’ experiences on the course were positive overall, and that students’ questionnaire scores on burnout decreased, whilst the scores for wellbeing increased. Ying Yang is currently in the process of analysing the qualitative written feedback that students’ provided on the course.

In August 2023, WELLS met the universities’ representatives in the GINTL-conference at the University of Helsinki. During the conference, collaborative plans were established to fully translate the course to Chinese, as well as conducting a larger pilot in China in the spring of 2024.

Cooperation in Belgium

The WELLS course has also raised interest in Belgium. The WELLS wellbeing course has been offered as a part of the course catalogue at the UCLeuven catholic university in the fall of 2023. Interestingly, the Belgian higher education context is somewhat different to that of Finland. In Belgium, all applicants are accepted into university degree programmes, however, student numbers are scaled down as the degree programmes progress. For instance, the psychology programme, around 600 students are enrolled at the start of the programme, but under 200 students graduate with a bachelor’s degree.

In October 2023, the WELLS Principal Investigator Henna Asikainen visited UCLeuven university to prepare for the pilot being conducted in Belgium, where Professor Mikaël DeClerqc is responsible for carrying out the course. French is the official language in this part of Belgium, indicating that parts of the course materials are translated into French and the videos that are a part of the course have French subtitles. Results on the UCLeuven university pilots are acquired in the spring of 2024.

During the trip to Belgium, the WELLs team also made a stop the University of Antwerp to meet Professor David Gijbels and Vincent Donch, as well as their research group. The aim was to discuss potential piloting and research collaboration. Henna Asikainen presented the project in a research seminar, where quite a few of the reserach group memebers were present. The course raised a lot of interest and a preliminary agreement to pilot the course in the spring of 2024 at the university was made.

David Gijbels’ research also incorporates biophysical measurements into their studies. On top of this, the University of Antwerp is currently building a laboratory, which enables various different methods to measure, for instance, heart rate variability and electrodermal activity. These measurements can be used to investigate changes in stress levels. The discussion additionally spanned to a potential collaboration with biophysical measurements, which would indicate that WELLS could investigate and demontsrate the effects of the course on a physical level. Professor Gijbels warmly welcomed the WELLS project to Anterp to collaborate in the future.