Special issue


The theme of belonging in e-pedagogy gained currency in the 2000s when educational providers hastened to join the online teaching and learning boom and studies of building and maintaining a sense of community (SOC) proved central to this endeavour. Motivated by the pandemic-era necessity to convene teaching and learning online as part of a response to super-complexity as a defining feature of tertiary education in the 21st century, work-integrated learning (WIL) practitioners returned to this scholarship to consider, under pressure, modes of building SOC and belonging in online spaces. Underpinned by a broadly constructivist worldview and informed by the Community of Inquiry (CoI) framework, our COVID-age study considers what pedagogical strategies are viewed as affording learners this sense of belonging - or not. Using a collaborative enquiry to pool our perceptions and experiences from three WIL contexts, we ask how work-integrated learning (WIL) practitioners build belonging in online spaces and identify strategies learners perceive as valuable. Drawing on the authors’ small-scale studies of educator and learner experiences of online WIL (eWIL), our collaborative enquiry uses qualitative descriptive analysis to identify key themes in the voices of students. Advancing the scholarship, our study identifies three threads to the fabric of belonging: humanising online WIL; the importance of mentor presence; and fostering professional belonging. The study suggests that strategies impacting these three areas are at the heart of building belonging in online spaces, broadly envisaged as imagined professional communities of practice. Techniques viewed as successful are advanced as possibilities for enhancing pedagogy in online WIL communities.

Practitioner Notes

  1. eWIL is important to develop student professional learning, but they should be designed with a focus on sense of belonging.
  2. The first meeting with the supervisor was found to be important and should be used to role model expectations, professional behaviours and build meaningful connections between student and supervisor/tutor.
  3. Reducing the size of a student cohort is an important consideration as smaller size cohorts are conducive to building a sense of belonging in eWIL experiences, this includes the presence of colleagues in placement contexts.
  4. Humanising eWIL can be achieved by teacher and supervisor presence, being responsive with communication, building trust and rapport and role-modelling professional behaviours.
  5. Universities will need to consider and recognise the labour involved by staff in delivering quality eWIL and help preparing mentors to build belongingness.

Twitter Handle

@BeateMueller5, @craft_theory