Reaching Out to Students: Students’ Well-being in an Online Learning Environment

by Sarah Somarajan Priya


It seems apparent that remote learning is going to be around for a while. Whilst many educators work towards ensuring curriculum design, delivery and assessment are made clear and accessible to all students, students are expected to adapt to these changes and learn accordingly in an online classroom. Research has consistently shown that a student’s well-being together with positive social conditions in a classroom, are critical when it comes to engagement and academic learning (Oades et al., 2015; King, 2015). Consequently, many educators often aim to cultivate such an environment; however, this can prove especially challenging when it comes to a remote ‘classroom’.

The module that I teach (ES1103 English for Academic Purposes) has an individual consultation element and it was during these consultations that I had a chance to listen to students and their concerns. It became evident in my conversations with them that learning remotely has possibly translated to them feeling somewhat anxious whilst others highlighted that despite my attempts to ensure online collaboration – they still felt alone in an online classroom. This was two semesters ago (AY2019-2020 Semester 2). Based on this experience, I decided to be more intentional in addressing students’ well-being.

There are varying definitions as to what well-being encompasses, specifically students’ well-being (Borgonovi &  Pál, 2016). Depending on the discipline, different perspectives adopt distinct approaches in understanding well-being either as a social process and how it impacts an individual, the clinical and health perspective, or to examine several domains of well-being including psychological, physical, social and cognitive aspects (OECD, 2017). Nobel and McGrath (2012) examined the commonalities amongst these definitions and suggested that optimal student well-being can be defined as a sustainable state determined by mostly positive feelings and attitude, positive relationships at school, resilience and a high level of satisfaction with learning experiences. For my classes, I focused on increasing positive feelings/attitudes and ensuring positive relationships in the classroom whilst examining the level of satisfaction with their learning experiences.


What I did

I spoke briefly on my challenges when it came to teaching online and invited students to share their experiences when it came to remote learning. With this, I explained to them that throughout the semester, I would conduct ‘well-being activities’ during Zoom lessons and that my goal was to create an online class where everybody will ‘find their fit’ despite not being able to meet in person.

Some of these ‘well-being activities’ included a simple introduction either through words/an image to represent themselves over Google slides, questions raised before the lesson (For example, ‘Please share about anything/something that made your day in the past week’ and ‘Share a recent achievement that you are proud of. You can use words or an image to express this’), and simple games played over Zoom.

These activities were conducted at various junctures throughout the semester. Additionally, I encouraged the class to set up a class Telegram group so that they can clarify, learn from each other. At the end of the semester, I gathered feedback from students based on these questions:

  1. What does well-being mean to you?
  2. How useful were the well-being activities in terms of supporting your emotional well-being and engagement with your peers/lecturer?

An overwhelming majority indicated that they felt included, found lessons engaging and were very grateful for these well-being activities. Similarly, in the module/teacher feedback at the end of the semester, I received comments that highlighted how they appreciated that their physical and social well-being ‘were cared for’. The overall feedback was positive and whilst well-being is a multi-dimensional construct that can be challenging to measure by a single indicator, this preliminary analysis has led to me to believe that being intentional about discussing well-being has been beneficial in terms of creating a positive online learning experience.



This notion of well-being, whilst not new, was my main concern when it came to online student learning that I wanted to address. With this experience, I have realized that creating a positive online environment is not just about advocating for positive thoughts but about helping students to recognize that the focus can be on growth despite challenging transitions. I believe this is an area that has potential for more dialogue; where educators can share teaching practices on how to better address the well-being of students in an online learning environment.



Baptiste, T. J., & Jalloh, A. (2014). Youth Well-Being: an Analysis of Challenges and Opportunities. International Leisure Review3(2), 142-161.

Borgonovi, F., & Pál, J. (2016). A framework for the analysis of student well-being in the PISA 2015 study: Being 15 in 2015.

King, R. B. (2015). Sense of relatedness boosts engagement, achievement, and well-being: A latent growth model study. Contemporary Educational Psychology42, 26-38.

Noble, T., & McGrath, H. (2012). Wellbeing and resilience in young people and the role of positive relationships. In Positive relationships (pp. 17-33). Springer, Dordrecht.

Oades, L. G., Robinson, P., Green, S., & Spence, G. B. (2014). Towards a positive university. In Positive Psychology in Higher Education (pp. 15-22). Routledge.

OECD (2017), “Students’ well-being: What it is and how it can be measured”, in PISA 2015 Results (Volume III): Students’ Well-Being, OECD Publishing, Paris,

Student Well-Being: What About It? | SingTeach | Education Research for Teachers. (2021). Retrieved 20 May 2021, from

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