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Selected CIVIS E-BELONG project to tackle social and emotional dimension of online learning

22 February 2021
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The E-BELONG project: Sense of Belonging in Online Learning Environments has been selected by the European Commission under the framework of the Erasmus + Programme, Strategic Partnerships for Digital Education Readiness projects. This new CIVIS educational initiative centred on pedagogical innovation will address the social and emotional engagement of students in an online learning environment with the aim to find effective ways to facilitate online education. This initiative involves seven universities from the CIVIS alliance and is coordinated by the University of Bucharest.

COVID-19 expedited digital transformation in higher education and this “forced digitalization” understandably came with many challenges, the key being to ensure continuity of the teaching and learning process under the unexpected conditions imposed by social interaction restrictions. Successful learning is not just about the quality of knowledge and skills to be trained but is very much related to the quality of social interactions between students and instructors.

In light of these circumstances, the CIVIS group of experts on innovative pedagogies decided to take up the challenge and tackle this matter with the development of the E-BELONG project. Seven Universities from the CIVIS alliance will work collaboratively on this initiative to address the social and emotional engagement of students in online learning and more specifically on two aspects of pedagogical innovation which has yet been addressed: (1) equity for vulnerable groups and (2) ensuring social-emotional conditions of learning in Higher Education.

Project objectives:

  • IDENTIFYING the best practices that could enhance teaching and learning when using digital tools and create conditions for social and emotional engagement of students in online learning.
  • PROVIDING a framework for transforming and adapting learning support services, with a special focus on vulnerable groups.
  • CREATING the tools to develop a student sense of belonging in the context of virtual learning communities.

The team involved in the project will co-create knowledge, support mechanisms and services to be offered across all universities. Activities in the project will include:

  • analytical selection of the vulnerabilities in the education system, with specific attention on the emotional and social impact of the pandemic and the identification of new categories of vulnerable people,
  • mapping of existing digital media used by member universities for teaching and learning and evaluate their effect on the sense of belonging,
  • design thinking as a method to add knowledge about possibilities to enhance the sense of belonging among different categories of students in order to assist course design, support services and creation of digital tools.

The project outputs and materials will be open access to the Academic community at large that seek to offer high-quality online teaching practice and ensure social-emotional conditions of learning for their students.

The CIVIS member Universities involved in this project are: Aix-Marseille Université, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Universitatea din București, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Sapienza Università di Roma, Stockholm University and Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen.


The E-BELONG project is funded through the Erasmus + Programme Key Action 226 and has an allocated budget of 229.121 euros. The overall coordination will be ensured by Lucian Ciolan and Anca Nedelcu (co-leaders of the Teaching Excellence team in CIVIS) and, at the operational level by Camelia Rădulescu, senior lecturer at the Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences from the University of Bucharest.