Online but Disconnected: Student Connectedness in Online Remote Learning in Higher Education in New Zealand
New Zealand university students in the online learning environment may have feelings of disconnectedness, isolation, and suffer a lack of personal attention. Perhaps these universities are at a junction, where they can choose to offer students immersion into a virtual learning environment devoid of a physical presence, or a pathway which nurtures students’ learning in a hands-on, face-to-face, physical space. Understanding student online connectedness, or their sense of belonging with the online virtual learning environment, may help navigate a path through this junction as the emergence of online remote learning becomes commonplace in New Zealand. This article suggests that universities should foster a virtual place of learning by developing an online social presence and promote open communication between faculty and students, and between students and their peers. Students are more likely to value online courses that foster a high degree of connectedness, and they are more likely to complete these courses. In this article, online student connectedness is defined and tools to measure it are described. Strategies to promote student connectedness in the online learning environment are suggested, for example, comprising social media and social networking sites which facilitate communication and increase social presence.