University of the Sciences has adopted the software program At-Risk as a tool to help faculty and staff identify, communicate with, and refer students who demonstrate signs of psychological distress. The program, produced by software company Kognito Interactive, is a 45-minute online training simulation designed as a proactive tool for supporting students.
Dr. Alissa Brown, staff psychologist for USciences Student Health and Counseling Center (SHAC), stated that mental health is a hot topic in university settings today because there are more students in college with serious mental health issues than in previous decades. These issues include depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts. Academic institutions are working to recognize and support these students early on so they can receive adequate resources to help them succeed throughout their college career.
“Our students’ physical and mental health is necessary for them to be able to succeed academically, but also for them to succeed professionally,” stated Dr. Brown.
Using At-Risk, users experience online role-play scenarios with student avatars and must effectively identify at-risk students. Put into practice at USciences, faculty and staff would look for changes in students’ academic performance, physical appearance, and classroom behavior. These include missed assignments, difference in appearance (personal hygiene, tiredness), unusual behavior, and increased tardiness or absences. After identifying and communicating with a student about their concerns, faculty and staff can also refer an at-risk student to SHAC for additional support.
Several departments at USciences have already completed the program, including the departments of the Samson College of Health Sciences and the finance department. As per research conducted by Kognito, users consider the program interactive and interesting because it’s based on real-life scenarios which can happen in their own classrooms. USciences will introduce the software to more departments over the summer and into the fall semester. In all, about 95 institutions have adopted the program since its introduction in 2009.
At-Risk isn’t restricted to use by professors. Faculty, administration, and staff from academic and non-academic departments can benefit from this training. In the end, the greatest beneficiaries are students.
“These are students who are, for the most part, training to become health professionals themselves. Their own physical and mental health is essential to their success here at USciences as well as their long-term success. The At-Risk program is one additional method that the USciences community is utilizing to support our students’ health and wellbeing.”
Faculty, staff, and administration who have questions or would like to utilize the At-Risk software program should contact Dr. Brown at 215-596-8537 or firstname.lastname@example.org.