Social Media Encourages Sense of Belonging among Off-Campus University Students

Social Media Encourages Sense of Belonging among Off-Campus University Students

Kine Dorum (University of Leicester, UK), Craig Bartle (University of Leicester, UK) and Martin Pennington (University of Leicester, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-1930-2.ch004


Research has shown that students who live off-campus during the academic year experience greater difficulty with social integration, and are at higher risk of dropping out. The aim of the present study was to explore patterns that may give an indication of the extent to which the use of social media websites can help social and academic integration among students who are living off-campus. A survey was distributed among a cohort of 370 first year undergraduate students, measuring their sense of belonging to the institution and their attitudes towards student life. Students who lived on-campus and who used social media websites reported a stronger sense of belonging than students living off-campus. A significant interaction effect indicated that using social media websites reduced the difference in sense of belonging between students living on- and off-campus. Scores on the attitude scale were significantly related to sense of belonging. The results suggest that online networking can aid social integration among students who do not have the advantage of the face-to-face interaction that takes place in residential life on-campus.
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Case Description

Going to university is an important part of the transition to adulthood for an increasing number of young people, and for most, it is both an exciting and daunting experience. Students face many new challenges such as meeting new people, making friends, living away from home, and taking on new or greater academic responsibilities. According to the Higher Education Statistics Agency, the number of students accepted on to courses at British universities passed 500.000 in 2009. During this transition stage, the degree to which students feel they belong to the institution at which they are enrolled can have a significant impact on their overall experience of university life, satisfaction, and academic attainment. Many educational researchers are in agreement that the sense of belonging, or the cohesion a student has with a particular institution, is one of the most important requirements to ensure individuals’ proper functioning within a learning environment (Deci & Ryan, 1985; Connell & Wellborn, 1991; Goodenow, 1993; Finn, 1989; Osterman, 2000). Social integration is consistently found to impact student persistence, and developing valued relationships is an important part of that integration (Astin, 1984; Tinto, 1998). Studies show that attrition often occurs among first year students who have not been integrated into the campus community (Christie & Dinham, 1991).

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