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Student project: Supporting international students in the context of the pandemic

Last semester I have been taking the course “Advanced Project Course” (DM2799/2584) that is a mandatory course in my programme. At the beginning of the course, we were able to choose from many different research projects and were then assigned to a group. Some of my fellow students chose the research project “Supporting International Students in the context of the Pandemic”. This is such an interesting and important topic, as we’re all involved in the changes that covid-19 brought to our daily lives as students, that I talked to the group about their project and would like to share their findings and ideas on how to support internationals with you today.

The group consists of the 5 students Xiaowei, Agnes, Sara, Vilma and Aleksandra. Already the group itself is very international as they all come from different countries: China, Sweden, the US, Finland and Poland.  

The survey and in-depth interviews

To start off the project, the group has conducted a survey where 124 international students took part in. They came from all over the world, in total 36 different countries. The most represented countries were China, Germany, Russia, France and Spain. The group found out that 79% of the participants prefer on-campus education over online lectures. As we all might have experienced ourselves as well, two thirds mentioned in the survey that they experienced major changes in their social lives when the pandemic started one year ago. The group asked the question “How much of an effect has covid-19 had on your social life?” and even 35.5% chose the answer “drastic”. After conducting the survey, the research group decided to do in-depth interviews. During these interviews the students discussed with the group about social, study and covid-19 related measures.

Developing a solution – “Study Mood”

Universities, like KTH, have managed to adjust quickly to the new situation by providing online lectures and platforms to help improve online learning. However, the situation is still not the same as on-campus learning and especially discussions and interactions between the students are hard to implement. It’s important to focus on the question: How can we bring the campus home to the students? Thus, the group developed their conceptual prototype “Study Mood” which is a potential solution to address the current needs among international students in Sweden. This prototype allows users to remotely experience studying on campus through a “virtual library”. The students have three different modes to choose from: study with a random peer (1:1), form their own group (squad) or choose the 24h study room. Through this, students are encouraged to network with each other.

Prototype of “Study Mood” with three different modes

A project from students for students

I also asked the group how they feel about being students themselves that are researching about a topic they are involved in at the same time. They said that it was an important part of their study to also evaluate their own needs and concerns as students at KTH. For them it’s important that the students’ needs are continuously investigated, and new ideas developed to help increasing study motivation and reduce the feeling of social isolation. For this process it’s crucial to involve students in the process of designing and testing. They would like to see more shared learning resources and social support especially for international students. They believe that their prototype could be used to create more advanced systems that allow socializing with other students in a safe way.

If you want to stay updated about the measures KTH is taking to reduce the spread of covid-19 and make the campus safe, you can click here.

Stay safe!
// Maria