Programme Session Details 2024

Online sense of belonging – Gathertown

Corresponding Author: Jennifer Smith

All authors: Mike Anthonisz

Length: 60 minutes


Scope: The idea of bringing students together in a 2D virtual reality space that utilises video and audio and allows them to “walk around” and engage with everyone. Using the dedicated induction sessions to help nurture the cohort community to help engagement in a playful nature hopefully.

Improving the student experience on our Online MBA programme through the novel use of technology to help students get to know one another an dbreak down the barriers of space and time and give them a sense of belonging.

The idea for the induction sessions was to find a way to create an informal teamwork/social/fun group atmosphere to allow the “natural” chat ability just like a face-to-face session. With a lot of talk around Zoom/Teams fatigue, we wanted to try something that would give the students a bit more of a sense of presence and active participation in the space built for them specifically.

“A sense of belonging can be cultivated between learners through frequent positive interaction between course participants” (Seifert & Bar-Tal, 2022, p. 7801). We want the students to be part of the University/Programme and “be here” together not feel like an outsider who just has text on a screen. As Pedler et al. posit that a sense of belonging is important as it can give value to how connected they feel to the University and the people (2022, p. 398).

“Research suggests that higher education students who have a stronger sense of belonging tend to have more academic self-confidence, higher motivation, higher levels of academic engagement and higher achievement” (Gillen-O’Neel, 2019; Maunder, 2018; Murphy and Zirkel, 2015; Osterman, 2000; Slaten et al., 2016 as cited in Pedler et al., 2022). These are all key areas on why EDU and the PD wanted to curate a way to help students feel they are a part of and the idea of “being at university” can resonate.

Overall, This platform was well received from the library, careers, learning and teaching, academic and student perspectives. The idea is to bring feedback and have a session to help develop more playful ways in a 2D-only context as well as share the design we used and feedback for others.

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