How is technology intersecting with student engagement and belonging?

Karen’s research in higher education focuses on key areas such as student engagement, connections and belonging.

Karen’s recent work, a collaboration with Associate Professor Rola Ajjawi (Deakin University), unpacked the ways in which technology intersects with student engagement and belonging. Focusing on students’ experiences of belonging and non-belonging in the post-digital university, her research surfaces the ways that these are negotiated through hybrid or blended approaches to learning, which have become prevalent within institutions across the globe.

This research explores how the recent rapid move to emergency remote teaching within higher education offers an opening in which belonging can no longer be taken-for-granted as located within fixed times and spaces. Technology-mediated approaches change the very nature of how, and where, people relate. But Covid has also exposed how any uniform approaches to understand students’ participation are problematic. Instead, we can understand students’ experiences as a breadth of micro-experiences that are often unique and singular. Post-digital is a concept that reflects an idea of a time ahead, following the understanding that digital is the norm. Binary in person and online divides are no longer meaningful, as all online learning is in person and embodied and situated. As a result, we need to understand our engagement with the digital in new ways, thinking of learning spaces and belonging as practices that we create, enact and do.

Future empirical research will continue this focus on understanding students’ (and staff) experiences of belonging to higher education in hybrid learning environments. This will help us to consider: What do students’ day-to-day material interactions with the post-digital university look like? As well as, how do students and staff actively create belonging when learning and teaching in hybrid mode?

By Dr Karen Gravett, Surrey Institute of Education; Email:; Web: