Vol. 52 No. 3 (2022)

Post-Secondary Student Belonging in a Virtual Learning Environment During COVID-19

Nadine Smith

Published 2023-02-13


  • post-secondary,
  • sense of belonging,
  • virtual learning,
  • COVID-19

How to Cite

Smith, N., Graham, J. M., Waddell-Henowitch, C., De Moissac, D., & Lam, M. (2023). Post-Secondary Student Belonging in a Virtual Learning Environment During COVID-19. Canadian Journal of Higher Education, 52(3), 73–84. https://doi.org/10.47678/cjhe.v52i3.189851


Psychological and social adjustment and academic success in post-secondary institutions are supported by a sense of belonging to a social group and having meaningful relationships with other students, staff, and faculty members. This exploratory study used a qualitative approach to investigate post-secondary students’ sense of belonging in the virtual learning environment during the COVID-19 pandemic. The study was conducted at a small Western Canadian university. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 20 participants who were undergraduate students, from various faculties, and in different years in their programs. Findings were clustered into three themes: (1) student expectations of university, (2) impact of virtual learning environments on students, and (3) the role of educators. Recommendations are included to enhance support and belonging for post-secondary students in virtual learning environments.


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