One in three university students experiences mental health problems during their study. A similar percentage leaves higher education without obtaining the degree for which they enrolled. Research suggests that both mental health problems and academic underperformance could be caused by students lacking control and purpose while they are adjusting to tertiary education. Currently, universities are not designed to cater to all the personal needs and mental health problems of large numbers of students at the start of their studies. Within the literature aimed at preventing mental health problems among students (e.g., anxiety or depression), digital forms of therapy recently have been suggested as potentially scalable solutions to address these problems. Integrative psychological artificial intelligence (AI) in the form of a chatbot, for example, shows great potential as an evidence-based solution. At the same time, within the literature aimed at improving academic performance, the online life-crafting intervention in which students write about values and passions, goals, and goal-attainment plans has shown to improve the academic performance and retention rates of students. Because the life-crafting intervention is delivered through the curriculum and doesn’t bear the stigma that is associated with therapy, it can reach larger populations of students. But life-crafting lacks the means for follow-up or the interactiveness that online AI-guided therapy can offer. In this narrative review, we propose to integrate the current literature on chatbot interventions aimed at the mental health of students with research about a life-crafting intervention that uses an inclusive curriculum-wide approach. When a chatbot asks students to prioritize both academic as well as social and health-related goals and provides personalized follow-up coaching, this can prevent -often interrelated- academic and mental health problems. Right on-time delivery, and personalized follow-up questions enhance the effects of both -originally separated- intervention types. Research on this new combination of interventions should use design principles that increase user-friendliness and monitor the technology acceptance of its participants.

academic achievement, academic performance, academic success, chatbot, goal setting, life crafting, mental health, well-being,
Frontiers in Psychology
Department of Technology and Operations Management

Dekker, I. (Izaak), de Jong, E.M, Schippers, M.C, de Bruijn-Smolders, M, Alexiou, A, & Giesbers, B. (2020). Optimizing Students’ Mental Health and Academic Performance: AI-Enhanced Life Crafting. Frontiers in Psychology (Vol. 11). doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2020.01063