Institute of Art Design + Technology
Dún Laoghaire

Heather McLean 

BSc [Hons] Applied Psychology

All modules within my BSc Applied Psychology degree have been very diverse and equally very interesting. My main areas of interest within this course were Abnormal Psychology, Neuropsychology and the Sport &Health Module. I have also enjoyed many of the more technical modules that were part of the programme such as Multimedia and the 3rd Year IT Project. From this I have developed an interest in the technological interventions that can be applied particularly within the area of Health Psychology. This interest corresponds closely with my plans for the future as I hope to obtain a career within the area of Health Psychology.

Project Description

The Covid-19 pandemic has subjected students to face additional challenges within higher education more than ever before. This has propelled concerns of isolation and disconnection for students particularly within the first year of study that may lead to a reduction of student retention and satisfaction. Therefore, this study explored the environmental and psychosocial elements of student life that may display a difference in students’ sense of community during this time.

Project Objectives

This study aimed to investigate if first-year undergraduates’ sense of community differed based on students’ level of collaborative engagement in academic studies, their learning environment (online/blended) and/or their online lecture size (small/large) during the Covid-19 pandemic. A survey-based, non-experimental, between-groups design was employed to recruit 135 first-year undergraduates. This information was then complied for statistical analysis.

Project Outcomes

The results suggested that students in the blended learning environment obtained a significantly higher sense of community than students in the online environment. Additionally, students with high collaborative engagement in academic studies obtained a significantly higher sense of community than students with low collaborative engagement. Lastly, lecture size did not demonstrate a difference in sense of community and interactions between the variables was also not significant. These results may be applied in future studies to build on the Self-Determination Theory as well as the Social Presence Theory, particularly with the advancement of e-learning. Additionally, it highlighted that an online learning environment and low collaborative engagement may be a contributing factor in reducing the students' sense of community particularly within the first year of study that could impact on student retention and satisfaction rates. Thus, this study may provide an important input for future research into the factors that could promote a sense of community for first-year undergraduates to ensure a positive learning experience.