Student sits at laptop, teacher is on laptop screen providing instruction, showing digital or blended learning

Supporting Students’ Wellbeing in Online Learning

Malcolm Hewlett

Students’ wellbeing is a really important consideration both online and offline – and there are a few things teachers can do to enhance their students’ experience with online learning in particular. Here are some ideas to help you support student’s wellbeing in online learning.

The factors at play

Student wellbeing can be affected by many factors. Whether it’s sickness, holidays or transitioning to a more blended approach to learning; students can find their wellbeing affected by change. Sudden change often has a profound affect on wellbeing. When teachers can provide consistency to students, the student is likely to have a better sense of wellbeing.

Regardless of exactly what is taking place that is affecting their wellbeing, students will have better online learning outcomes when they are well supported. How can you ensure your students receive maximum benefit from your input while they are learning online?

Online learning can be isolating for many students who are used to a more social environment. Student sits on floor with textbook and laptop, looking at screen with expression showing she is confused.

Online learning can be isolating for many students who are used to a more social environment.

Take into account unique circumstances

In the classroom we can control many aspects of the environment in order to make it conducive to learning. However, there are many factors we cannot control. We know that some students who have had poor internet access are probably likely to have worse learning outcomes. Others who have better resources at home and have whānau support are likely to have had an easier transition to online learning.

Students whose classroom learning is supported by specialist learning support teachers can really find their wellbeing affected by online learning. How do you look after these students and make sure they have the best possible opportunity to keep learning? They may need extra input from you on a regular basis. Is there anything you can do to bridge the gap between them and their specialist learning support teachers when they are learning online?

It helps to keep in mind that you know your students. You have a lot of information about them. Consider the individual as well as the classroom. The MOE has developed a COVID-19 wellbeing guide to help teachers and whānau support the wellbeing of children and young people. It consists of three modules and contains activities, tip sheets and resources to support your learners. These can help them develop the resiliency skills needed in a time of stress and disruption.

Building and Maintaining Relationships

Whakawhanaungatanga (connecting through building relationships) is an important component in helping students maintain wellbeing in online learning. Online learning can be socially isolating for many students, who are used to learning by being surrounded by their friends and teachers.

Teenagers want the support of social connections. Many seek this out through social networks such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, FaceTime, Whatsapp, Tik Tok and YouTube. Students who typically interact on these platforms often find online learning less engaging. Look into how integrating social connection in the learning process can assist your students to remain interested. A first step might be a happy welcoming video for each group of students you interact with. Upload this onto your learning management system. Use a variety of media in communicating with your learners.

Four guiding questions have been developed to help ensure necessary relational support is provided to students improve their wellbeing and their learning:

  • Do students have someone in their network they can turn to for help?
  • Is the support offered meeting the students’ actual needs?
  • Do students feel they belong?
  • Will the relationship outlast the intervention? Find more at

Finally, if you make online learning part of the everyday classroom schedule, then transitioning to this type of learning due to a period away from the classroom won’t be such a big leap for your students. Prepare them well with blended learning.

Supporting students through checking in to promote wellbeing in online learning

As mentioned above, relationships are a hugely important part of teaching and learning. While it can be difficult to build and maintain relationships in an online setting, it is important to do so. Communicate in various ways; what works for some may not work for others. Communication options are vast, and include email, phone, messaging, video conferencing and direct communication through online platforms.

Think about how asking a question of all students at once in an online setting can be difficult. Students want to talk to you individually, so try to make space for this. Share yourself with your students in ways you are comfortable with while maintaining your own personal boundaries. Giving students glimpses of your world (and the factors that affect your wellbeing) will go a long way towards maintaining and strengthening your relationships with them.

When working out who to check in on, do some prep work. If some students stop engaging online, reflect on what might be their barriers. What wellbeing factors could be at play for those students who have not engaged at all? Who seems to be thriving in an online learning environment? What are the differences between those students and the ones with less engagement? Are there key markers where you can regularly check a student’s progress to work out who is having difficulty? Is the platform you’ve chosen to work with one that updates students on their progress and encourages their learning through regular feedback? Does the platform give you, the teacher, enough information on individual students and their progress?

Safety issues and starting points

Creating a safe, supportive and welcoming environment where all students feel valued – and are treated as individuals – is important.

Positive learning outcomes are more likely to be achieved if students are safe while they are working digitally. The Netsafe website has tools and resources for educators to support you and your students to maintain their wellbeing by staying safe online. It recently launched the Stay Connected, Stay Safe education campaign to help people have better online experiences during this time of uncertainty.

After a time away from physical classroom connections, students can be impacted in different ways. As students come back to school it is important to be able to identify their starting points for learning; to pick up on those and plan appropriately. Some students may have weeks of work to catch up on after a period of lockdown, sickness or holiday. Senior students may especially feel the pressure of having fallen behind; concerned about meeting timelines that relate to assessments. The wellbeing of these students needs to be considered. Teachers are often good at finding each student’s starting point and working with this.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself to help with supporting students’ wellbeing in online learning:

  • When my student/s have been away from the classroom for a period of time, what am I doing to make sure they are able to settle back into a school setting and feel included?
  • Are my students ready to settle back into a structured programme and timetable after having been in control of how they spent their time? Is it possible to give them greater flexibility for a period of time?
  • Have I talked with my student/s about the experience of online learning and given them time and space to reflect?
  • What have they enjoyed most about online learning and how can I bring this into their everyday classroom experience?
  • What is happening with my students’ whānau? If they are experiencing difficulties, the feeling of uncertainty may continue for some time. How can I accomodate the student to improve their wellbeing?
  • How can I plan and access learning opportunities that might meet the needs and interests of those students who enjoyed learning independently?

Supporting your students’ wellbeing on an ongoing basis

LearnWell Digital resources gives you a ready-made option to support student wellbeing. Students can continue to learn in a blended way at their own pace, where you as a teacher can see the progress of each student and encourage them in the learning outcomes you want to see.

Give students a tailored learning experience through the LearnWell Digital resources. When they’ve fallen behind others in the class, support their wellbeing by giving them access to online resources to enable them to catch up.  LearnWell Digital will help your students to learn in a way that gives them the space and time to achieve good learning outcomes.

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