Designing for student wellbeing: challenging assumptions about where our students learn


  • Debbie Holley Bournemouth University
  • David Biggins Bournemouth University



Student wellbeing, hidden learning spaces, technostress, analytics


Student wellbeing has been foregrounded during the recent Covid-19 pandemic but this is broad brush and contested with different models being followed across the sector. One aspect of concern is the extent to which access to the technology institutions require students to use contributes to additional stress. A student survey (n=30) in one UK HEI revealed the ‘hidden spaces’ where students learn, and the findings indicate that the formal institutional Virtual Learning Environment (VLE), with its sophisticated learning analytics, did not fully capture the student experience. This work was followed up with a digital wellbeing survey (n=172) and, by drawing together the two datasets, we report on a more nuanced student experience. Initial findings indicate a schism between formal and informal spaces where students learn, especially within our institutional reporting of students working online. Examples include students using their own preferred tools such as WhatsApp, Trello, and Slack to communicate outside the formal channels; these behaviours thereby devalue the validity of the VLE datasets that student-facing staff are encouraged to use for decision-making. This paper offers insights into accessing and interpreting data in ways that are more useful for academics, learning developers, and learning designers, and suggests ways in which we can effectively frame student support by putting the ‘real’ student experience at the centre of our practice.

Author Biographies

Debbie Holley, Bournemouth University

Debbie Holley is Professor of Learning Innovation at Bournemouth University. A National Teaching Fellow and a Principal Fellow of AdvanceHE, she is a passionate educator, with expertise in learning design and blending learning to engage a diverse student body. Supporting student writing, drawing on creative practice in her own teaching, and influencing the teaching of others aligns her practice with the LD community, where she regularly presents and supports the annual conference, contributes to the #Take5 blog series, and formerly served on the ALDinHE National Steering Group. Her research in simulation, augmented reality, and immersive worlds reality influence national policy.

David Biggins, Bournemouth University

David Biggins is a Senior Lecturer at Bournemouth University and Senior Fellow of AdvanceHE. David worked as a Technology Enhanced Learning Theme Leader and Academic Learning Designer where he developed a TEL Toolkit, contributed to the design, deployment, and staff training for a new VLE, and led projects in staff skills development, curriculum design, the learning culture, and other institution-wide initiatives. A particular interest for David is the use of data to promote student success, learning analytics, and data visualisation. David’s praxis has developed through his interactions with the LD community and his research is frequently presented at ALDinHE conferences.


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How to Cite

Holley, D. and Biggins, D. (2023) “Designing for student wellbeing: challenging assumptions about where our students learn ”, Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education, (27). doi: 10.47408/jldhe.vi27.938.