Colleges and universities should encourage social interactions when in-person classes restart later this year in order to boost student happiness and success amid the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic, says a Ball State University researcher.
“Students rely on their social networks at school to make sense of life, and that will be even more important in the fall,” said Sotiris Hji-Avgoustis, chair of the Department of Management in the Miller College of Business at Ball State.
Hji-Avgoustis was part of a multi-university team that examined student happiness and social networks.
“It is important for colleges and universities to enable such networks to help students flourish on their campuses,” he said. “Student clubs, associations, and the entire Greek system, will help our students ‘rebuild’ their lives despite the uncertainties of this era.”
“Subjective Well-Being, Activity Types, and Social Context in Undergraduate Students’ Daily Experiences: An Experience Sample Study” found that participants’ subjective well-being (SWB) — more commonly known as happiness — was higher when they were with others than when they were alone.
SWB is an umbrella term for people’s lives, including their evaluations of life satisfaction, engagement, and affect.
Using the experience sampling method, the investigators analyzed 963 experience sampling forms from 21 college students.
The study, which was published in Spring issue of the College Student Journal, highlights the importance of social support for SWB among college students.
The study’s findings also support the importance of active leisure. Active leisure goes beyond organized sports and exercise; it can include dancing, fencing, hiking, golfing, swimming, diving, and more. Many active leisure endeavors are offered on college campuses as part of elective physical education programs.
“A suggestion for educators is to consider ways to encourage students to take active-leisure credit-earning courses, either as free electives or as part of a common core curriculum,” Hji-Avgoustis said. “These courses should count in a student’s total credit hours toward graduation.”
Another suggestion is to communicate the availability of campus recreational programs to students and advocate a less sedentary lifestyle. Research shows that not all students are aware of their campus recreational choices, and students participate at differing rates, he said.