Creating a Student Community in an Online Space: The Romance and the Reality

Abstract

This study aimed to explain the romance and the reality of creating an online community for Master’s students in the COVID-19 context, and investigate the barriers and enablers to engaging in community online. In the urban university where this study was conducted, there are large postgraduate taught programmes with students who differ in their ability to thrive and flourish in the online learning environment due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Students appeared to have been missing the ‘hidden’ academic and social opportunities that are normally available on campus which allow them to become part of an academic community. Therefore, an internally funded project was developed to enhance students’ social and educational experience. The project included an ongoing series of online events across the spring and summer Terms in the academic year 2021/22, that revolved around peer support, support for academic work, and support for career development and beyond. A focus group was conducted at the end of the project with five students, discussing their perspectives on the events they attended, and their possible explanations for the low uptake despite students’ initial enthusiasm. The findings showed that students valued the social dimension of the online events and the informal space they created, which helped alleviate stress regarding academic work. Students explained the low uptake by discussing the substantial ‘virtual fatigue’ they experienced, the lack of daily connection with peers, the impact of time constraints and the language barriers for international students.



Author Information
Bin Guo, IOE, UCL’s Faculty of Education and Society, United Kingdom
Shira Lider, IOE, UCL’s Faculty of Education and Society, United Kingdom

Paper Information
Conference: ECE2022
Stream: Higher education

This paper is part of the ECE2022 Conference Proceedings (View)
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Posted by amp21