Nod app helps students expand social skills


Joclyn Haven, Reporter/Photographer (She/Her)

 South Dakota State University students now have the latest access to a new app to help deal with their mental health and social skills. 

The Office of Student Affairs announced their partnership with Nod in mid-October. The new app for students uses psychology to help build relationships and improve social skills. University administrators became aware of Nod through a presentation at a student affairs professional conference earlier this year.

“SDSU has worked with the company that operated Nod for several years …  so we discussed the potential of adding Nod to the resources we offer,” Toby Uecker, SDSU dean of student affairs, said.

According to the Nod website, the app brings together positive psychology, cognitive and behavioral skill-building and mindful self-compassion to help students develop social skills. 

Nod is a science-backed and research-tested app. Nod allows users to set goals like connecting over shared interests, building their social network and feeling more confident. Nod suggests ways to implement these goals into a student’s life and reflect on how they’re feeling.

The apps focus is on guiding students with connection-building and with anecdotal reports. Students were finding it challenging to connect in person after returning from a pandemic social isolation.

In 2019, a randomized controlled trial was conducted with 220 first-year college students at the University of Oregon with the intention of giving college students hope for making meaningful social connections. After creating Nod, a study team at the university assessed how well it worked. Students found that using Nod has improved their sleep quality, campus belonging, social support and intention to persevere in school. 

“All of our research shows that folks that are experiencing symptoms of loneliness and/or depression are the ones that would benefit most from this,” Nathaan Demers, vice president and director of clinical programs at Grit Digital Health, said in a Q&A session.

One student testimonial from the 2019 study said they liked that the app helps students set goals.

“I try to set social goals for myself, but this app makes me more accountable and really encourages me to be creative in social interaction,” a student said. 

The goal of Nod is to serve as one of many tools for students wishing to connect at SDSU. It’s a tool that also includes academic advisers, student groups and peer leaders for residence halls to assist students looking to make connections at school.

Nod also addresses feelings of loneliness on campus by providing students with skills and challenges that help them build meaningful social connections.

Uecker said student affairs has received feedback from a few students who were introduced to the app through campus resources or in-class presentations. There has been little feedback since the app is new to students. However, Uecker said the feedback has been largely favorable and has included remarks regarding the approachability of the app’s design and information as well as how well it seems to be suited to students’ everyday lives.

“I think it is a great app providing tools for students to use to help deal with being lonely on campus,” Hannah Schentzel, a sophomore exercise science major, said. “I have checked out the app and would recommend it to anyone who may want to improve their social skills.”

University officials hope the feedback they receive will show them results of student enjoyment while using the app. 

In addition to helping students develop their skills and connections, it was designed with appealing imagery and enjoyable tasks.

Since the release of the app, many universities have partnered with the company to have the app available on their campus. Nod is free for all members of the SDSU community to use, however, there is a flat annual fee paid by SDSU to offer and support the app. 

Students can download the app on their phone through the app store and create an account with their campus credentials.