By Ayaan Hagar – Project Team Lead, Kethmi Egodage – Community, Social Connection & Support for Students Team Member, and Betelehem Gulilat – Lead Editor & Writer
Our new reality has accelerated change in all areas of our lives, from work to socializing, we’re staying connected to our communities through the most hyper-connected platform called the internet. What elements of digital connections and communities help students feel like they’re connected with one another? With this question in mind, we’d like to introduce the Digital Community & Connectedness Project. Building on our previous work, this project is exploring how the student experience of finding and engaging in community continues to shift during this time, and what implications this has for those who build and facilitate connections within the online UofT community.
Fostering Connectedness at UofT
Fostering connectedness is one of our five domains of innovation and a common thread in many of our projects. Through hearing student stories across campus, we recognize that having a sense of belonging and connection to the UofT community is such a vital part of a fulfilling student experience. You can visit many of our current projects that aim to foster connectedness within our UofT community here.
Since the start of the lockdown and transition to online learning, we’ve been working to find innovative ways to bridge gaps in resources for students. In particular, our Digital Connections Toolkit was built to promote student autonomy in facilitating connections and engaging with their communities online by providing useful information on various online communications platforms. If you’re interested in learning more about this toolkit, click here.
The Digital Community and Connectedness Project
The aim of this project is to understand how the pandemic has affected the UofT student communities, especially when looking at how students find and make connections in digital spaces. Some of the questions we’re hoping to unveil through this project include:
- What aspects of community do UofT students find meaningful?
- Has student’s understanding of community shifted with the transition online?
- How are students coping with feelings of isolation and loneliness in this fragmented campus experience?
In many ways, these questions are similar to our previous projects focusing on student needs, but as the student experience shifts into an unprecedented situation, it’s important that we continually ask these questions to address emerging student needs.
What to Look Forward to
By investigating diverse UofT student experiences around community and connection, we plan to share our insights to help support individuals throughout the UofT community. These insights will be highlighting innovative ways to foster digital connections that meet student needs, whether it be digital student spaces, online programming, or even community engagement initiatives. Whether you are a student, staff, or educator at UofT, we aim for these insights to support how you might foster meaningful digital communities in these times.
In the following months you can look forward to our monthly ‘Delving into the Digital Campus’ blog series where we will be sharing findings & insights based on our work. At the end of this series, we’ll be sharing an interactive tool that highlights what we’ve learned about digital communities and connections at UofT to empower community members throughout UofT, and to help us think about how we can make an impact in the many digital communities we are a part of.