Sense of belonging to an intellectual community


The newest (and sixth) component of Hewlett’s Deeper Learning framework is “academic mindsets”, which is really a collection of four dimensions of learning that deal with the learner’s attitude towards learning. Of these four, the most interesting aspect from the perspective of P2PU is “sense of belonging to an intellectual community”. I’d like to start collecting thoughts, research, reflections on two questions:

  • How can we foster the development of a sense of community in our courses?
  • How can we measure/track this vague sense of belonging?

A third question that is maybe not for us to answer, but that we should keep an eye on is the relationship between “sense of belonging to an intellectual community” and success in traditional academic settings, work, or life - in other words, is there evidence that developing a stronger sense of belonging to a community through learning, leads to real benefits.


First reply to my own post. This is a blog post / reflection on the Learning Creative Learning MOOC. Jennifer talks about feeling isolated within the course, and some ideas for how to overcome this isolation.

For the majority, how much of the MOOC they finish and what they actually get out of the MOOC are left in the hands of the individual. In addition, individuals may spend much time in creating connections and a sense of community, but even those efforts may not yield fulfilling results.


I think that these questions are really important (and really hard) to answer, because of the difference in context between the web and the ivory tower.

In my experience one of the reasons why web people are often suspect of university people is because of the elitist attitudes that are often so foregrounded in traditional higher ed. Several P2PU staff and volunteers, past and present have articulated this over the years.

And yet, for many people, it is access to this elite (and I’m talking intellectual here, not financial, that’s a different kettle of snobs) that is the major drawcard of the university.
For many people, it’s not about vocational training, it’s about entering a universe where learning has a long and rich history and where, over time, you are able to prove your intellectual worth and join your peers.

It’s this peer acceptance that is the dovetail with what P2PU does.