Sense of Place in Online Learning Environments

Author Faculty (Discipline)


Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date


Page Numbers



Online learning environments are as diverse as the students and teachers who inhabit them. While one person may envisage an online learning environment to be a simulated website, another may imagine a site where vast numbers of students communicate using discussion boards, email and chat. With these varied expectations and perceptions in mind, this paper begins by acknowledging why a sense of place in online learning contexts can support and enhance the quality of student learning in higher education courses which have online components. Using George Seddon’s understanding of sense of place (Seddon, 1972, 2004), the paper presents an analysis of developments in online learning spaces and explores this concept in terms of online learning, identity, community and belonging. As a student, locating oneself in an online learning environment is sometimes difficult - difficult to navigate, difficult to know and difficult to ascertain one’s location as an individual and as a member of a community in virtual terms. Although the benefits offered by flexible, technologically-rich learning contexts often outweigh the problems associated with this type of learning, the confusion and disorientation sometimes felt by learners during online learning experiences is thought to be worthy of acknowledgement and analysis. The paper concludes with six recommendations drawn from "lessons learned" from online educators and students, and those researchers who have investigated online learning contexts over the past decades. It is anticipated that these recommendations will assist to foster a sense of place in future online learning environments. [from article]


Used by permission: the author

Copyright 2008 Maria Northcote

At the time of writing the author was affiliated with the University of Newcastle.