Generating a Sense of Belonging with Online Learners

Dr Susie Schofield
(Reader & eLearning Lead, Medical Education, University of Dundee)

25 March 2019 @ 4pm | Webinar via Collaborate

Link to to the TILE webinar room:


In 2010 the Centre for Medical Education at the University of Dundee moved their 30-year old Masters in Medical Education from a paper-based ‘correspondence course’ to online. Retaining the flexibility of ‘start and finish any time’ meant we weren’t able to fully utilise many of the advantages of going online. Students and staff, in particular part-time staff working off campus, reported feelings of isolation.  A sense of belonging (SoB) is a recognised and valued concept in education. The literature shows that on-campus students  value SoB, and that it can be a predictor of success.  For many learners, the online space may be isolating, alien, even threatening – resulting in high attrition rates and lower than expected student attainment. However, there is little work around the SoB of online students and its impact (or not) on learning. This is against a growing interest in online learning.

In this session Dr Susie Schofield reports previous research findings around progression and retention at CME. She summarises some of the key literature around SoB, inviting attendees to explore their own experiences of SoB. Susie then introduces an on-going QAA-funded collaborative project between four Scottish universities, all involved in online learning. She presents the draft online tutor’s toolkit they are co-developing. The toolkit provides practical tutor guidance, exemplars and videos about how online tutors may promote learners’ SoB at various stages in the programme – before, during and closing, and through assessment. She invites attendees to consider how they might use certain tools to themselves encourage SoB for online students.

About the speaker:

Dr Susie Schofield is Reader in Medical Education, Deputy Programme Director for the Masters in Medical Education, PhD lead for CME, and Institutional lead for flexible / distance learning. She joined CME as staff development officer 12 years ago, principally to support consultants involved in delivering the MBChB in their educational role. Since then she has published over 40 peer-reviewed papers and journals, and facilitated workshops locally, nationally and internationally. In 2010 she led the move for the Masters programme from paper to online, then in 2015 from non-cohorted to cohorted, and has developed modules in Induction, Learning and Teaching, Technology-Enhanced Learning and  Faculty Development. She has spoken widely around Faculty Development, including several keynotes. Her research interests are around faculty development, professional identity and sense of belonging in a technology-enhanced environment.