Cyber University's journey to fostering community, belonging, and academic continuity

Picture of the testimonial from Cyber University talking about the benefits of using Commune

Motoyuki Hidaka

Director, Placement Office
Student Affairs Department


"Through the community network, students and faculty intertwine, fostering heightened motivation and facilitating peer-to-peer support."

"Through the community network, students and faculty intertwine, fostering heightened motivation and facilitating peer-to-peer support."

Background

Founded in 2007, Cyber University stands as a pioneering corporation-backed fully online institution. Offering a four-year curriculum that requires no physical attendance from enrollment to graduation, the university holds accreditation from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology in Japan. 

Similar to traditional brick-and-mortar universities, students can attain a bachelor’s degree upon completion. Embracing a philosophy centered on providing extensive and high-quality learning opportunities to individuals with a passion for academic pursuits, regardless of personal circumstances such as location and time, Cyber University is dedicated to nurturing competent individuals who will actively shape society.
Logo of Cyber University for Commune's case studies

Challenges

Before the introduction of the community, students expressed a compelling need for peer-to-peer connections and alumni networking—an aspiration the school aimed to fulfill through its initiatives. Previous attempts at establishing on-campus communities on social media saw limited success.

Understandably, fully online students would often grapple with feelings of disconnection and loneliness, posing a substantial obstacle to fostering a continuous enthusiasm for their studies. The challenge lay in creating an immersive environment that would enable students to interact, support one another, and collectively inspire a sustained and positive engagement with their academic pursuits.

Picture of the Cyber University's campus

Process

The introduction of the community was driven by a dual-purpose strategy. Firstly, the aim was to broaden the network of diverse students at the university and provide them with a taste of a traditional university experience. To achieve this, the concept of a virtual “lawn” at the heart of the campus was envisioned—an inclusive space where students could freely gather and interact. The intention was to foster a sense of belonging, encouraging students to maintain connections with the university even after graduation. Notably, the community also extended a warm welcome to alumni participation, further enriching the network.

The second purpose was to improve student retention and graduation rates. It was assumed that students could enhance their motivation to learn by encouraging and stimulating each other in the virtual environment.

When selecting a platform for this vision, Commune emerged as the preferred choice. In comparison to competitors with similar offerings, Commune stood out for its exceptional responsiveness and service quality. The user interface, designed to be intuitive and user-friendly for both administrators and users, played a pivotal role in the decision. The ultimate choice to introduce Commune was reinforced by a palpable sense of passion within the Commune team, reflecting a genuine belief in the transformative potential of the community.

Picture of educational materials at Cyber University

Solution & results

The implemented community served as a transformative solution, fostering dynamic student interactions and addressing the multifaceted goals set during its introduction. The community facilitated active student interactions, especially related to classes, creating a sense of belonging. Initiatives like the “Student Support Initiative” during exams and personal stories shared in the community showcased the positive impact of peer support. Positive effects include preventing students from taking breaks or withdrawing, increased motivation among faculty and staff, and a valuable contribution to academic continuity. 

Future plans involve creating smaller communities within the Cyber University community, fostering interactions based on common hobbies or interests. The community is seen as an infrastructure supporting student motivation to learn, cultivating a positive cycle of continuous learning, connection, and societal contribution.

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