Educators’ Perceptions on Refugee Students’ Identity Challenges Following Higher Education Through Virtual Learning

Cassandra Sturgeon Delia


Refugees experience specific challenges when transitioning into higher education influenced by socio-cultural issues (Kong et al., 2016). Moreover, online learning may impact identity formation leading to duelling identities (Brunton et al., 2019). As virtual learning prevails in higher education due to the globalisation of new technologies, academic needs and competition with international institutions (Olaniran & Agnello, 2008), marginalisation of socially excluded groups such as refugees may surface (Crea & Sparnon, 2017).

The purpose of this study is to explore educators perspectives of challenges and opportunities refugee students’ face when following higher education via a virtual space that impedes these specific students identity and sense of belonging. This paper provides the concept based on Erickson’s psychosocial development theory to extend this area of investigation by assessing the impact of learning via online spaces on identity.

Five educators working within higher education were interviewed using a qualitative phenomenological methodology to generate an in-depth, unique perspective on the challenges and opportunities observed by teaching refugee students’ and focusing on identity formation. The data generated were transcribed verbatim and analysed using a computer-assisted data analysis software (CAQDAS), NVivo 12 Plus, to classify group-specific codebooks emerging from the data collection.

The finding suggests that refugee students’ studying via a virtual space face specific challenges linked to their lived reality; however, pedagogy and educators need to be more culturally responsive to support students from diverse backgrounds and aid in the identity transition. Moreover, opportunities gained through online learning allow a sense of belonging to a global education and skills fostered will prove fruitful academically and beyond. This study concludes with implications for professional practice within the higher academic setting.

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International Research in Higher Education  ISSN 2380-9183 (Print)  ISSN 2380-9205 (Online)

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