Do Online Courses Impact Sense of Belonging at Residential Campuses?

Concurrent Session 1

Brief Abstract

Does online learning impact sense of belonging at a residential campus? This session will combine literature on sense of belonging with an analysis of data from the Student Experience in the Research University [SERU] survey at The University of Texas at Austin.

Sponsored By


Dr. Cassandre Giguere Alvarado is the Executive Director of Student Success at The University of Texas at Austin. Over the past five years, she has designed and led student success innovations that have dramatically improved student success at UT-Austin. She was one of the chief architects of the University’s recent 4-year graduate rate breakthroughs and her work has been recognized by the Association of Public & Land Grant Universities, the National Academic Advising Association, and the National Resource Center on the First-Year Experience and Students in Transition. Dr. Alvarado is a Clinical Professor in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy and teaches graduate classes on student success research and strategy.

Extended Abstract

Sense of belonging has important implications for student success. Students who report a stronger sense of belonging are more committed to their institutions, more likely to be retained, and more likely to persist to graduation. Does “sense of belonging” differ between students who take online courses and those who do not at The University of Texas at Austin? This session will combine literature on sense of belonging with an analysis of data from the Student Experience in the Research University [SERU] survey. First, the concept of sense of belonging will be introduced, with a discussion of how it differs from other measures of integration, and the important influence sense of belonging has on measures of student success. Second, the differences between students on a residential campus who take online courses will be introduced, along with a discussion of how taking online courses can impact a student’s experience at a residential university, to highlight why comparing sense of belonging in these two groups is a salient choice. Next, the research question that framed this project will be shared, along with a brief outline of how the question was developed. The next portion of this session will focus on the data and analysis conducted as part of this project. The data source will be introduced, followed by a discussion of the analyses conducted and their subsequent results. Finally, the session will contextualize the results using the concepts introduced at the beginning, and provide a space for a conversation around why these results matter and how they can be used in attendees’ own practice to improve their work with their student populations.

Learning Outcomes

• Attendees will gain an understanding of the concept of sense of belonging and the implications it has for student success.

• Attendees will be able to identify the differences among online learners on residential campuses and recognize how they differ along measures of student success.

• Attendees will engage in conversation about the research presented and how they might apply it in their work to best support their student populations.