Animal-assisted activities (AAAs) are being offered progressively in universities to support students’ well-being. However, with the recent health restrictions due to COVID-19, all classes and health services are being delivered remotely. Due to this, many postsecondary institutions have put a temporary pause on AAAs. Most recently, there has been a growing interest and rise in virtual AAAs being facilitated at universities in North America, which vary in duration, group size, and other organizational elements. Furthermore, prior to the pandemic there was also an interest in collaborative events that sought to combine multiple activities with AAAs. Due to the nature of virtual events, virtual AAAs may require a collaborative component to increase student engagement which should be explored further to determine students’ interest and input into their design. This study surveyed university students at a North American campus, Simon Fraser University, to determine students’ interests and gather input into the design of virtual and collaborative AAAs. It also compared and contrasted the responses of students who have, and have not, participated in AAAs prior to the survey, as well as evaluated students’ experience with virtual AAAs. Students were also asked about their motivations and barriers to in-person AAAs to understand how remote AAAs can address them and use the information gained in their design. Findings suggest students are not interested in virtual AAAs but they did show high interest in collaborative AAAs. Many students showed lack of interest in virtual AAAs due to uncertainty of what virtual AAAs would be like. There were also a variety of motivations and barriers reported by students that may only be applicable to in-person events. Students who have, and have not, participated in AAAs provided similar results. Future research is recommended to pilot a virtual AAA program and evaluate students’ satisfaction afterward to see if remote AAAs should be continued once in-person classes return.
|Publication Title||People and Animals: The International Journal of Research and Practice|
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