A predictor of student success, sense of belonging (SB) is often inhibited for minoritized students in engineering environments and difficult to foster in online courses. A shift to remote learning formats necessitated by COVID‐19, therefore, posed an additive threat to SB for engineering first‐year students, especially those with minoritized identities. Research is needed to understand impacts of online learning to SB for engineering students.
The study examined factors that promoted or detracted from SB in engineering in remote courses and ways in which identity related to SB.
Part of a larger mixed‐methods study, this article examines focus group data from 31 first‐year engineering students in 2020 to characterize student experiences in engineering courses moved online during COVID‐19.
In addition to the mutually reinforcing nature of SB and learning, findings reveal that the major factors of (a) peer interactions, (b) instructor behavior and course design, (c) environmental identity cues, and (d) personal and psychological factors influenced SB. Examples of factors that positively contributed to SB in remote‐delivery courses included platforms for open communication with peers, “live” ability to ask complex questions, and a critical mass of peers of similar identity; example factors hindering SB included limited use of cameras in synchronous classes, elitist peer interactions, instructor focus on academic performance (vs. growth), and feelings of self‐doubt.
Both identity and COVID‐19 impacted SB for students, with results showing four pathways to support SB and learning for diverse students in engineering across course formats.