COMBATTING LONELINESS BY INTRODUCING A START-UP PROJECT FOR FIRST-YEAR STUDENTS
Editor: Buck, Lyndon; Grierson, Hilary; Bohemia, Erik
Author: Lande, Ingrid; Heimdal, Anette
Institution: University of Agder, Norway
Section: The effect that design and engineering have on global co-habitation
DOI number: 10.35199/EPDE.2023.8
The first year of a student’s higher education significantly affects their performance and probability of completion. Tinto found that the first few weeks are critical for the students regarding motivation, connecting socially and connecting academically. Most of the students who decide to quit or drop out do so during the first weeks of their education. Thus, it is imperative to integrate students into their new academic environment as effectively as possible, meaning that universities must be aware of and utilize this window of opportunity to give the students a meaningful start. Every four years a survey is conducted to map how the students in Norway feel (SHoT). In recent years there has been an increase in reported loneliness amongst the students. In SHoT 2022 36% reported that they either miss someone to be with, feel left outside or feel isolated often or very often. This is an increase from 2018 where 30% of the students reported this. Another striking result from this research is that 34% report that they only have a few friends and 7% report that they do not have any friends. At the University of Agder the civil engineering first-year students, of both bachelor and master, were assigned a start-up project in their first week. This start-up project was designed by the some of the employees at the civil engineering department. The students were divided into groups of 4-5 students. The purpose of the start-up project was to design a small student cottage were functionality, sustainability and design comprised the main assessment criteria. They also had to build a model in a scale of 1:20. The students had three days to complete the project and presented their final products in front of the rest of their class, and a jury consisting of employees at the civil engineering department. After having the presentation of the final projects, a survey was distributed to the students. 88% rated the project as 4 (to a large degree) and 5 (to a very large degree) when it came to academic collaboration. Furthermore, when asked to which extent the project prompted a social arena and contributed to gaining new friends, 90% and 79% respectively, replied either 4 or 5. The results of this study can provide other educational institutions with insights on how to meet the first-year students, and how to provide a social arena. By having a start-up project which is both a theoretical and physical task, the students find other students to befriend and work with.