Background Information Background Information

Background to project

In September 2017, the Guardian highlighted the issue of student mental health concerns.  A study by the IPPR think tank reported a fivefold increase in students reporting mental health issues, and a record number of students with mental health problems dropping out of university (IPPR 2017).  UK university students support services are struggling to manage the demand for mental health support, with a recommendation that more self-help resources are provided early in the student experience (HEFCE 2018).  Additionally there is a growing need for a whole university approach to student well-being (Universities UK, 2018). 

Student anxiety is linked to a number of factors such as transitioning from home, managing independence and living skills, financial worries, relationship worries, degree worries, family concerns, and physical and mental health issues (NUS 2015, Universities UK, 2015).  But not all support needs to be focused on mental health – the majority of student worries are non-clinical and if addressed can reduce an accumulating anxiety load. 

OpenUpUEA aims to address this concern by focusing on students transitioning into university and providing tools to help students develop their own emotional resilience. 

It fits with the UEA strategic plan, which outlines the need to work in partnership with our students, and to invest in wider student support (Objective 3, action point 5).

Evidence base

A detailed literature review looked at the most effective emotion regulation strategies, and drew upon Laura Biggart’s ESRC funded research, which explored emotional resilience in social work (Biggart et al 2016).  The research identified six key strategies to adopt when things get stressful – ‘plan ahead’, ‘reframe’, ‘exercise’, ‘tackle the problem’, ‘seek support’ and ‘modify mood’.  By using this as a template, the OpenUp UEA app aims to provide effective emotion regulation strategies for students.

The UEA App development competition

In June 2017, Laura Biggart successfully applied to the UEA app development competition, organised by UEA Research and Innovation Services (RIN).  Four CMP undergraduates were employed as summer interns, plus a ‘scrum master’, a PhD student, to oversee to development of the prototype app, alongside the ‘product owners’.

In the autumn semester, the prototype app underwent user testing with undergraduate students, coordinated by 3rd year project students in PSY.  This user testing required the participants to download and use the app, before completing a questionnaire and taking part in focus groups to provide feedback on both the usability of the app, and the suggested features. 

In January 2018, OpenUp UEA received proof of concept funding to further refine the app, with the support of company JoZi Tech.  Two PSY masters students are currently working on developing further features, and will be working alongside two CMP summer interns. 

The app will be available to UEA students from September 2018. 


The following institutions and individuals have each made valuable contributions to the OpenUp app and are sincerely thanked for their hard work and effort:

Name Affiliation Role
Laura Biggart UEA PSY Inventor
Kamena Henshaw UEA PSY Inventor
Jason Lines UEA CMP Internship Academic Lead
Adam Ziolkowsi UEA CMP / JoZi Tech Ltd. Senior Developer
Steve Jones UEA NBS / JoZi Tech Ltd. Scrum Master / Senior Developer
Admin and Funding Support
Chris Blincoe UEA RIN App Development Internship Co-ordinator
Claire Bushell UEA RIN App Development Internship Admin
Kevan Williams UEA SSF Associate Dean Funding - 2018 Internship
Jon Carter UEA RIN Funding (proof of concept) for App Development 2018
Scott Steward-Smith UEA PSY Marketing, Website and Admin Support
2017 App Challenge Hosted by UEA CMP and RIN
Conor Reynolds UEA CMP UG Student - Developer
Josh Dennis UEA CMP UG Student - Developer
Michael Meyne UEA CMP UG Student - Developer
Warren Reynolds UEA NBS UG Student - Developer
Feature Research and Testing
Alison Northwood UEA RIN Market research i-teams project Co-ordniator 2018
Megan Jones UEA PSY PGT Student - New Feature Development
Laura Batson UEA PSY PGT Student - New Feature Development
Chris Vear UEA PSY UG Student - User Testing - Prototype
Elizabeth Boyer UEA PSY UG Student - User Testing - Prototype
Amelia Nelson UEA PSY UG Student - User Testing - Prototype
Collette Meades UEA PSY UG Student - User Testing - Prototype
Bianca Ilii UEA PSY UG Student - User Testing - Prototype
Ellie Fairfield UEA BIO PGR Student - Market Research
Benediktas Kaminskas UEA BIO PGR Student - Market Research
Laurie Kerr UEA ENV PGR Student - Market Research
James Craske UEA EDU PGR Student - Market Research
Conor McGrath The Quadram Institute PGR Student - Market Research
Chris Astwood UEA HUM PGR Student - Market Research
Isabella Diez-Santos John Innes Centre PGR Student - Market Research
Benjamin Young-Longstaff UEA MTH PGR Student - Market Research
Sophie Bagge UEA PSY PGR Student - New Feature Development
External Contributors
Dom Davis Tech Marionette Ltd. Internship Technical Workshops and Mentoring
Mel Pullen - Internship Technical Workshops and Mentoring
Joost Noppen BT Research 2017 CMP Academic Lead and Mentoring
Tom Haczewski The User Story User Journeying and iTeams Mentor
2018 Summer Interns
Ben Townsend UEA CMP UG Student - Developer
James Mason  UEA CMP UG Student - Developer 







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