Mattering vs Belonging and the impact of Academic Advisors: Online Professional part-time students a case study.

Jacqui Thijm (UCEM)

Monday, April 3, 2023 5:00 PM - 5:45 PM

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Session Outline

Belonging is not new, it is a term that has been around for some time in Higher Education. The “What works? Student retention and success” report came to the conclusion that “belonging is critical to student retention and success” (Thomas,2012). However, this can be difficult to achieve for some students such as online, part-time, commuter, mature and students with caring responsibilities. The research around a sense of belonging amongst online students is limited (Peacock et al,2020), who have limited time and opportunities to participate in activities used to promote belonging at universities. With an increase in online and blended courses within higher education (Dunford and Miller,2018), mattering maybe a more important factor for such students.

Mattering as defined by Dixon and Tucker (2008), is an individual’s perception that they are important and are valued in their interpersonal relationships. Academic advisors have a key role in mattering, by building individual relationships with students they can have a positive impact on feelings of mattering. McIntosh et al (2020[online]) found that students who feel supported by their academic advisors go on to have successful tutoring relationships. In a case study conducted within a Higher Education institute that provides fully online courses for part-time professional students examined feelings of mattering and belonging amongst level 5 and 6 undergraduate students. The case study found that the individual mattering relationships were more important than belonging to students who participated in the study. Students valued members of staff who went “above and beyond” and showed care and mattering. Academic Advisors were key members of staff for these mattering relationships. The case study found that students already had networks in the form of friends, family, and work where they feel that they belong and are not looking for this from their online university. The audience will hear about the outcomes of promoting a sense of mattering for online students, from student surveys and interviews.

This session addresses the following competencies of the UKAT Professional Framework for Advising and Tutoring
C2 - Theory relevant to academic advising and tutoring
R1 - Build advising and tutoring relationships through empathetic listening and compassion for students, and be accessible in ways that challenge, support, nurture, and teach