Teachers’ and students’ perceptions of a sense of community in blended education

Linlin Pei*, Cindy Poortman, Kim Schildkamp, Nieck Benes

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
53 Downloads (Pure)


Universities have renewed interest in blended learning in preparation for post-COVID education. However, unsatisfactory social interactions hinder the quality of blended learning, despite its potential for flexible and personalized learning. In this situation, a sense of community would provide essential academic and social benefits. To develop a sense of community among students, we need to further understand students' and teachers' perceptions concerning this subject by exploring their experiences in blended learning. Therefore, we investigated this for three blended courses using a qualitative case study approach. We conducted: (1) classroom observation; (2) document analysis of course content, assignments, and assessments; and (3) individual interviews with teachers (n = 3) and group interviews with students (n = 18). The results showed the main factors that appeared to contribute to sense of community: group learning activities within courses, non-academic and extracurricular activities across courses, and the campus as a physical place integrating academic and social life after COVID. Further, we identified two obstacles: students valued group learning but struggled to manage group dynamics, and despite teachers' efforts to encourage learning autonomy, students viewed teachers as the ultimate authority in the learning process, which strained the student–teacher relationship. Additionally, this study revealed the limitations that digital tools have for promoting sense of community, as students questioned whether these tools have added value for supporting intricate and in-depth conversations. Finally, based on these findings, we provided practical recommendations for the future development of sense of community in blended learning.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages39
JournalEducation and information technologies
Early online date29 May 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print/First online - 29 May 2023


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