One in four design students says their wellbeing has suffered while studying from home during the pandemic, although half of them see advantages in remote learning, according to a survey conducted by Dezeen and Bath School of Design.
Eight out of 31 students who took part in the survey said they had suffered from wellbeing and mental health issues.
“My biorhythms have altered, insomnia has come and everything is like a continuous night,” said interior design student Angélica Monge Garcia.
Graphic communication student Emily Taylor, 20, said the switch to remote learning “has negatively affected my wellbeing, mostly due to the anxieties of the pandemic and uncertainties about the opportunities that there will be for me after my degree.”
“Concentration and motivation are difficult”
The coronavirus student survey invited students at Bath School of Design, part of Bath Spa University in the west of England, to share their thoughts on student life amid the pandemic. The questions were written by Dezeen and sent to students by the school.
Four of the respondents – 13 per cent – said they had found it hard to motivate themselves.
“Concentration and motivation are difficult,” said furniture and product design student Mari Jones, 20.
“It has been frustrating not to go onto campus, not being able to socialise with your course mates, to find motivation and to share ideas between friends in real-time,” wrote graphic communication student Jacobus Oosthuizen, 22.
“I miss the social aspect of university”
All the students missed campus life. “I miss the structure of getting up and dressed for university,” said textile design student Emma Gannon, 21. “I miss my daily walk to university too.”
“I generally just miss the social aspect of university,” said graphic communication student Patrick Dewar, 22. “I miss not just being able to go the pub with your mates after a deadline to blow off a bit of steam.
“I miss the naturally occurring conversations that you have with your lecturers and peers about work in the studio, Dewar added. “That kind of get lost through communicating on a Zoom call.”
“Remote learning is a good way to focus on your work”
But 15 of the 31 students who responded had positive things to say about studying during the latest lockdown in the UK, which has seen the Bath campus closed since 8 December.
“My creativity has been stretched more than it ever would have been,” said textile design student Emilia Rose Dadswell-Jones, 20.
“I have been able to develop skills that we would normally spend less time on such as 3D modelling and rendering,” said furniture and product design student Charlie Firth, 19.
Some students reported a mixture of good and bad experiences.
“I think remote learning is a good way to focus on your work and not compare it to other people,” said textile design student Paige Vandome, 21. “However, it definitely has its challenges and I find the lack of motivation to be the hardest.”
Students “thinking about what it means to be a designer”
Head of school Curtis said many design students are viewing the pandemic in a pragmatic way and acting resourcefully to learn new skills and adapt to difficult circumstances.
“Students have been really quite incredible and supportive [to teaching staff] even though things are really hard for them,” she told Dezeen.
“People are thinking about what it means to be a designer in these times,” she said. “We’ve had students firing clay pots in barbecues and doing fashion shoots in bedrooms.”
She added that design students appear to have coped reasonably well during the restrictions in comparison to other creative subjects. “We feel that it’s due to our discipline,” Curtis said. “Design students are solutions driven. They are looking to resolve problems.”
Students embracing craft and technology
The pandemic is changing the type of work students are doing and the techniques they are using. Without access to workshops and studios, they are instead refining craft skills and using whatever materials they have to hand, she said. They are also honing their digital skills.
“I’ve never seen so much augmented reality, virtual reality and artificial intelligence in student work,” Curtis said, adding that many students are combining craftwork with digital technologies to create hybrid projects that can be viewed online or via video conferencing.
“They can only share their outcomes on a screen they’re really focussing on that,” she said.
“We think they are looking at the pandemic and thinking about how they have to adapt to ensure good careers in a post-covid environment or an ongoing pandemic environment.”
“I have turned my dressing table into a desk”
Nearly all the students surveyed have returned to their family homes around the UK and have continued with their studies from their bedrooms and living rooms, attending teaching sessions via Google Meet and educational platform Blackboard.
Most students are working and studying in their bedrooms.
“I have turned my dressing table into a small desk where I sit every evening,” said textile design student Zoe Weaver, 26, who has returned to her family home in Staffordshire. “During the day, I put my laptop on the window sill to try and experience more daylight.”
“I’m living in my family home in Wales, working on the dining table in between meals,” said Mari Jones.
“I’m working from my partner’s bed”
“I’m currently stuck at home working from the living room along with my mum and sister, who are also working from home,” said interior design student Isabelle James, 18.
“I’m currently working from my partner’s bed as he and his mum are using the only two desks in the house,” reported interior design student Lydia Daniel, 23.
“I have a studio space squeezed into a spare bedroom,” said MA textiles student Katie Allen, 39.
“I’ve got three children homeschooling around me and a toddler bashing about. My husband is home working in a different bedroom.”
Thirty-one students responded to survey
To conduct the survey, Bath School of Design sent a questionnaire compiled by Dezeen to its 450 students.
Sent at the end of January, it asked students to describe how the pandemic had impacted their studies both in terms of its impact on their work and on their wellbeing.
It also asked them to explain where they were working and what they were working on.
Most of the respondents were aged 19-23 but there were a handful of older and mature students.
The majority are studying BA (Hons) in graphics, furniture and product design, interior design and textile design. Students in all three years responded. There were additionally three studying MAs in textile design and two taking MAs in visual communication.
Four students are from Bath or nearby Bristol in western England, two are from Wales and three are from overseas. The remainder are mostly from southern and western England.
Half of students working in bedrooms
Nineteen students have returned to their family home and two were at their partner’s home. The rest are living in rented flats, houses or lodgings.
Fifteen students, almost half of the respondents, are working from a bedroom. Others are doing design projects at the kitchen table, in the living room or the dining room. A few said they had set themselves up in sheds, spare rooms or studies.
Eight out of 31 students – 26 per cent – said that lockdown had affected the wellbeing and mental health, while four said they had found it hard to motivate themselves.
But sixteen students – 52 per cent – cited positive aspects of working from home.
Campus closed since 8 December
The Bath School of Design campus was closed on 23 March 2020 when the first UK-wide lockdown was introduced. The school switched to online learning. Final-year students were unable to put on degree shows.
Students returned to campus under controlled-access conditions on 28 September 2020. The campus closed three days early for Christmas on 8 December due to new lockdown restrictions and has not opened since.
The latest government advice is that universities can reopen on 8 March.
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