Fostering a sense of belonging through online qualification events

Edwards, Carol and Hardie, Liz (2024). Fostering a sense of belonging through online qualification events. Distance Education, 45(2) pp. 210–228.



There has been much interest in how to develop a sense of belonging to an academic institution over the last twenty years, given the evidence that this improves student retention, satisfaction and attainment. Fostering a sense of belonging involves both psychological and sociological aspects; students need to feel like they belong and are valued by their institution, and this is developed through interactions with staff and peers. Research carried out since 2020 into belonging online has focused primarily on course-based teaching initiatives. This article will describe our 18-month pilot on a fully online qualification developing a greater sense of belonging for our students based on qualification-wide online events and their impact on student engagement and sense of belonging. Qualification-wide events are events that are open to all students on a qualification or programme, such as a law degree, as compared to events which are only available to students on a specific course. It will highlight some of the barriers students perceive to building online community, including a lack of confidence, and discuss the students’ views that the responsibility for developing community lies with the university.

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