Connecting Online Students to Their Higher Learning Institution

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Establishing a sense of community is important for student success in online learning environments. However, how online graduate students experience a sense of community in higher learning institutions providing their courses or degree is an area not fully explored. This article reports the results of an investigation into how graduate students in a fully online program perceived their sense of community to their institution. Further discussion of how the institution supported, or could better support, its students through services and/or aid follows. A mixed methods approach was utilized with three distinct phases. Although students in this study perceived a somewhat low sense of community, the interviews and mixed data helped provide insights on how a sense of community could be improved. The implications of this study may provide further understanding into the support and sense of community experienced by an increasing population of fully online learners.