#LTHEchat 213: Belonging – does it matter in the student experience? Led by Jenny Crow @JennnCrow

Photo by Caio from Pexels

Within the UK, the next weeks bring the start of a new academic year, which can bring up a mixture of thoughts and feelings for both staff and students. The start of a new year can also be a time to reflect or potentially introduce new things. Araújo et al (2014) talks about “academic, social and cultural adjustments” students undertake when starting at University. The start of the 2021/22 academic year also brings additional challenges. Many students will be adjusting and re-adjusting due to a wide range of learning experiences impacted by the pandemic.

Rovai (2004) found that low sense of belonging could lead to students dropping out especially in a blended and online context, this could be relevant to this year, as many students will be in this situation of taking some learning on-campus and some online. In 2019, 5 institutions launched the Developing Sense of Belonging in online distance learning toolkit, although the toolkit was aimed at online distance learning the principles can be translated to other students. One of the first things the toolkit asks viewers to do is try and consider what their students are feeling and what it is like from their perspective. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs framework (1943) was initially posed as a theory of motivation. Later in 2013, a meme was then shared on the BBC website that included Maslow’s framework plus an added addition. Whether the addition in this case is in the correct place could be up for debate.

Image source BBC, 2013

The author of the meme might not have discovered Milhein (2012) which had already applied Maslow’s framework to an online learning context and had included internet access in the first level (Physiological). The author later shared the importance of staff involvement in creating an environment of belonging and acceptance through communication, collaborative activities and feedback. However, without the initial levels of Physiological and Safety being met first then belonging was more challenging, consequently Wi-Fi is important to belonging!

Finally, not all students are the same and therefore experience different levels of belonging. Booker (2016) shares the importance of considering that some students can feel a lack of belonging that could be linked to ethnicity and gender. Singh (2020) gives some practical tips, such as creating a culture with lack of judgement, sharing of videos and explaining of local language terms – all of which can assist students from different backgrounds to feel like they belong.

In this week’s #LTHE tweet chat we are going to explore what belonging means and how it is put into practice in a learning context.


Araújo , N. et al., 2014. Belonging in the first year: A creative discipline cohort case study. The International Journal of the First Year in Higher Education, 5(2), pp. 21-31.

Booker, K., 2016. Connection and Commitment: How Sense of Belonging and Classroom Community Influence Degree Persistence for African American Undergraduate Women. International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, 28(2), pp. 219-229.

Maslow, A. H., 1943. A theory of human motivation. Psychological Review.

Milheim, K. L., 2012. Towards a Better Experience: Examining Student Needs in the Online Classroom through Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Model. Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 8(2), p. 159.

Rovai, A. P. & Jordan, H., 2004. Blended Learning and Sense of Community: A Comparative Analysis with Traditional and Fully Online Graduate Courses. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 5(2).

Singh, G., 2020. Supporting black, asian minority ethnic (BAME) students during the COVID-19 crisis. Shades of Noir.

This Week’s Host: Jenny Crow

Jenny Crow (@jennncrow) is the Digital Education Team Manager in the College of Medical, Veterinary and Life Sciences at the University of Glasgow. Her role involves leading a small team in the College of MVLS, who build content for fully online MSc programmes as well as providing digital education support for staff and students involved in these programmes. Additionally, Jenny is undertaking a part-time PhD at the University of Glasgow. Her topic is analysing sense of belonging for online distance students and whether technology can impact sense of belonging. Her research projects include virtual tours, virtual graduations, virtual worlds and virtual students (robots). Jenny has over a decade of experience in digital education / learning technology and is a proud CMALT holder. Jenny is passionate about creating an excellent student experience and introducing strategies so to encourage all students to be part of the University. Jenny enjoys outdoor sports, travelling and drinking nice coffee.

Jenny Crow - dressed in white and blue, with right hand raised. Standing againts a blue, purple and pink background.
Jenny Crow


Q1. What does sense of belonging mean to you?

Q2. How do you enable sense of belonging within your students?

Q3. How do you support your students at a distance?

Q4. Has COVID-19 changed the way you approach belonging?

Q5. How do you evaluate sense of belonging?

Q6. How does digital technology influence sense of belonging?   

Find the Wakelet at: https://wke.lt/w/s/Ohp50K

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