The My Student Support Program (SSP) app is a 24-hour instant messaging service for students, for assistance with personal or academic concerns. It allows users to call or text a student support adviser from a smartphone, and is available in a variety of languages — including English, French, Korean, Chinese, Spanish, and Arabic — at no cost to the student.
Initially exclusive to international students last year, U of T recently expanded access to students at all three campuses, given its benefits.
The SSP app is, without a doubt, a massive leap toward improving the accessibility of student resources. Moreover, it is not a replacement for other on-campus resources, but rather a welcome addition to student health services at the University of Toronto.
Smartphones are a rapidly-growing part of student life, and many classrooms are currently embracing technology across the world — be it for extra-curricular activities or for in-class participation.
By providing students with support just a few clicks away, the university has alleviated stress for students who may be too anxious to reach out for help in-person. Furthermore, the app also provides students with helpful articles that can provide necessary advice for coping with the stresses of university life, as well as directing them toward the correct resources when necessary. For those who do not require immediate support, the curated articles will provide a much-needed voice to guide students toward success.
However, students who do not own a smartphone are excluded from the convenience of the SSP app, and while U of T does have many other in-person resources for student wellbeing, some students may find themselves unable to seek in-person help due to logistical or personal reasons.
Not every student has access to a smartphone or tablet, and the app being smartphone-exclusive is a concern that has not yet been addressed or resolved. The next step for the university to take in their roll out of the SSP app would be the release of a website component so that students can take advantage of the service at home or by using on-campus computer resources.
The launch of the SSP app should be celebrated. It is a major step toward improving the accessibility of student resources by a university that has faced criticism in the past for this very issue.
However, in the future, U of T should work on improving access of the resource beyond just smartphones, linking other on-campus resources to the app, and increasing its advertisement. By doing so, the university would greatly improve the quality of student life on and off campus, and foster a positive environment for coming years.
Angad Deol is a first-year Life Sciences student at St. Michael’s College.