Against loneliness, for virtual campus life

His so-called Noneliness App is intended to be a safe and entertaining application to continue campus life online and thus stay connected with the university community. Based on the exchange of text messages in a virtual community, the app offers many different ways of social interaction, both between students and with university members. Users can organize meetings, make new friends based on common interests, set up discussion groups or seek psychological support. Motivating game elements further improve the application’s user experience. "On this platform students can find a common and safe space for socialization. In this way, we ensure that they are not alone in this time of global tension. In addition, we reduce the distance between the students and the institution's staff, who are concerned about the well-being of our university community," explains Rogério Bordini, the PhD student behind the Noneliness App who is doing his doctorate under Prof. Dr. Oliver Korn.

Never been inside of the university

The Noneliness App is an attempt to find new ways to compensate for the loss of the usual togetherness in campus life. This is a topic that university management, staff and students are currently dealing with intensively on many levels. Innovative solutions are always welcome.

While schools have been teaching face-to-face at least partially since the outbreak of the Covid19 pandemic, students at German universities face their third semester of distance learning. This leads to increased social isolation and loneliness for young people who have just left their familiar environment.  In addition to the usual worries and problems of students such as self-organization, pressure to take grades, career decisions and financial insecurities, there are now the difficulties of everyday pandemic life.

And "the ‘therapeutic agent of social contact’ – often important for overcoming problems or improving disorders – is largely unavailable," states graduate psychologist Konrad Braun from the Psychotherapeutic Counselling Centre of the Studierendenwerk. Some students complained: "I've practically never seen the inside of the university."

Networking is particularly important for international students

For international students, the situation is often even more stressful. Foreigners, without an existing network and without the opportunity to meet at the university, tend to be worried about their family members back home. "To counteract this, we have been offering the app to foreign students for two months on a trial basis. With the Covid19’s relaxation of regulations and the opening of the app to all students, they now also have the opportunity to socialize with fellow German students, make new friends and go on meetups during the lecture-free period." says a delighted Vera Vanié, deputy head of the university's International Centre, who is working with PhD student Rogério Bordini on the app development. In addition, the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) is supporting the project financially.

The trial use of the app will evaluate the current result of the research project. Later, the app can be further operated via a commercial provider or a start-up.  

All university members are invited to use the platform for free. In addition to being able to find friends, the app also gives them new access to important news from the university such as policies about courses, online events and the operation of campus services. The Noneliness App can be used in web browsers on both desktops and mobile phones, does not any collect personal data and complies with the GDPR.

University members are invited to test the platform via the link https://gratitude.affective-lab.org and by entering their university email address and campus login.