Sense of Community in an Online Graduate Program

  • Heidi Renee Cornell Wichita State University
  • Donna Sayman Wichita State University
  • Jason Herron Wichita State University
Keywords: online learning, sense of community, synchronous learning, higher education


A sense of community among learners is recognized as contributing to positive student outcomes. Synchronous learning opportunities may serve as one way to create a sense of community among online learners. Findings are shared from a mixed-method study that examined the impact of synchronous discussion sessions on students’ sense of community, as well as additional factors to consider when creating a sense of community. Cultivating trusting relationships by providing students with multiple opportunities for authentic, spontaneous, supportive discussion with people they know well emerged as central to fostering a sense of community. Implications for online learning in higher education and future research needs are discussed.