Building Whanaungatanga Online


  • Jude Douglas Whitriea Community Polytechnic, Porirua, Aotearoa New Zealand


Whanaungatanga, Online, Social work education


In Aotearoa New Zealand, social work has traditionally been taught face-to-face. Historically,

there has been resistance to online or blended courses, despite studies highlighting similar

student learning outcomes if these courses are well designed and taught effectively.

Changes to legislation impacting the provision of tertiary education, and lockdown during

the COVID19 pandemic, have potentially heralded a new era in the provision of social work

education; one in which the online component of blended learning receives more focus.

What this means for professional and applied programmes like social work, is that the role

of teaching academics will need to include an understanding of pedagogically sound ways

of engaging and interacting with students online.

There is now significant understanding of what works in online modes as well as a growing

awareness of what teaching tools are helpful in emergency situations (such as during lockdown).

The importance of building and maintaining whanaungatanga (relationships, community and

connection) is central.

This reflective piece describes one social work academic’s attempts to increase the level of online

engagement and interaction (between herself as teacher and her students, between the students

themselves and between students and course material) to build whanaungatanga in the group

during lockdown between March to June 2020.

Several online tools were used and are evaluated here; the value of each tool is considered

in relation to how well it contributed to building whanaungatanga within a particular cohort

of students. Finally, the challenge to social work educators presented by lockdown learning

is positioned in the broader context of the social work profession.