SACAD: John Heinrichs Scholarly and Creative Activity Days


The purpose of this research was to investigate the efficacy of a student-centered social media platform for higher education students. Social belonging significantly influences educational success, as heightened feelings of belonging among students correlate with increased motivation to stay engaged and learn (Marler et al., 2021). The conceptual framework for this study uses the intersection of social presence and social capital as resulting in social belonging. Social capital refers to the networks students build through interactions with others that could prove to be valuable resources (Lefebrve et al., 2016). Social presence looks at the interaction and relational aspects of these networks as students need to build a social relationship and engage others in their academic work (Kreijns et al., 2014). Social presence emerges as an important factor in online education especially as enhancement is shown to positively improve interaction and performance (Chun-Wang et al., 2012). Social presence and social capital overlap to create social belonging which focuses on interpersonal relationships and how expansion of these relationships occurs through communication and common experiences in the academics (Lingat et al., 2022).

The goal of this study was to investigate feelings of social belonging across students at Fort Hays State University with both an online and on-campus population similar in size. Hypotheses stated that student use of the institution’s online community would result in higher levels of social belonging compared to students who did not use the platform.

A sequential mixed methods research approach was deployed to address the research question (Cameron, 2009): Does a virtual community platform help promote students’ sense of belonging?. For the quantitative methodology, a survey was distributed to both on-campus and online student populations (n = 230). An independent t-test was conducted but found no significance indicating no differences in terms of online platform use: social capital, t(228) = .34, p < .73, social presence, t(228) = .68, p < .50, social belonging, t(228) = .74, p < .46. Additionally, a Mann-Whitney U test was performed which looked at differences in social belonging between the online and on-campus students. Results demonstrating overall social belonging yielded no significance between the online and the on-campus students, (U = 4664.50, p = .33). With this lack of significance in the initial results, an exploratory regression was conducted to investigate social belonging’s relationship to the online platform. Significance was found, the online platform use was predictive of overall social belonging, r (117) = .40, p < .001.

For the qualitative results, a sample of interviews were collected from participants who took the initial survey (n = 7). Data from these interviews will be displayed in a table representing coded responses in alignment with the conceptual framework.

As a whole, despite the lack of difference between online and on-campus groups, social belonging is still a critical factor in student success in higher education with connections to student motivation and engagement (Marler et al., 2021). The exploratory analysis showed that online platforms targeting student interactions may increase students’ social belonging which has a potential to increase student engagement and success. Further implications drawn from this study point towards the benefits of increasing social belonging within higher education. Understanding the different factors within social belonging such as social capital and social presences can help develop further research and interventions aiming to promote social belonging in future research.

Faculty Advisor

Dr. Andrew Feldstein



Submission Type

in-person poster




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