Skip to main content

Suggestions for designing mental health-friendly courses

prioritizing wellbeing through learning

Suggestions for designing mental health-friendly courses

Over half of students in higher education report that keeping up with coursework was their biggest stressor in the past month. Small changes to course design can have a meaningful impact on student mental health. Read on for guidance on optimizing your courses for student wellbeing.


Make assignments due at 5pm

Recommendations suggest that assignments due at 5pm can bolster student mental health. Avoiding evening deadlines encourages students to eat dinner and maintain proper nutrition, and avoiding early-morning ones can help prevent late-night work.


Check in with students at high-stress times

Check in with students at high-stress times throughout the semester, such as the beginning of semester and during midterms and finals. This could include pausing to ask the class how their coursework is going, reminding students of academic and mental health resources available to them, and reiterating the information included in their syllabi about mental health and coursework support.


Offer slides with mental health tips

Create a reusable slide deck to show at the start of term with brief information to support student mental health.

Slides can be presented at the start of the lecture, as students are getting seated, and could include mental health tips (e.g., tips for deep breathing for relaxation), short experiential skills exercises (e.g., a brief guided mindfulness exercise), encourage quick periods of movement, or provide information on campus mental health resources. Starting class with these tips communicates to students that you are supportive of their mental health and wellbeing.

See our suggestions for sample slide content.


Design a flexible and supportive syllabus

Consider your School’s absence policy and allow flexibility as appropriate without an impact on participation grades, drop the lowest score, or grant extensions as equitable and reasonable. Allowing for flexibility can keep students motivated and engaged with the material and their goals while adhering to consistent course guidelines. You can also include language in your syllabus to support student wellbeing. See our suggestions for sample syllabus language.