Where is my community?

What happened to the engagement and career orientation for first-year students during the pandemic


  • Helena Kantanen University of Eastern Finland
  • Leena Penttinen University of Jyväskylä
  • Päivi Rosenius University of Eastern Finland
  • Katri Ruth University of Eastern Finland


career orientation, engagement, first-year experience, online learning, pandemic, self-determination theory


This study examines relatedness, self-efficacy, autonomy and career orientation of the student
cohort of 2020 whose first semester consisted mainly of online teaching because of the
restrictions caused by the COVID-19. Comparisons are made to our previous study of the 2018
cohort when we found that the key factors of motivation and engagement were a supportive
study community and meetings with alumni. These elements were absent in 2020 but these
deficits did not endanger students’ motivation. Both groups had challenges with academic study
skills. Therefore, attention must be paid to the academic study skills of first-year students, and
to the needs of relatedness of the ‘COVID cohort’.


Brooman, S., & Darwent, S. (2014). Measuring the beginning: A quantitative study of the transition to higher education. Studies in Higher Education 39:9, 1523–1541.
Deci, E.L., & Ryan, R.M. (2000). The “what” and “why” of goal pursuits: Human needs and the self-determination of behaviour. Psychological Inquiry 11:4, 227–268.
Jamelske, E. (2009). Measuring the impact of a university first-year experience program on student GPA and retention. Higher Education: The International Journal of Higher Education and Educational Planning 57:3, 373–391. doi: 10.1007/s10734-008-9161-1
Lederer, A.M., Hoban, M.T., Lipson, S.K., Zhou, S. & Eisenberg, D. (2021). More than inconvenienced: The unique needs of U.S. college students during the COVID-19 pandemic. Health Education & Behavior 48:1, 14–19. DOI: 10.1177/1090198120969372
Ryan, R.M., & Deci, E.L. (2000). Self-determination theory and the facilitation of intrinsic motivation, social development, and well-being. American Psychologist 55:1, 68–78.
Quijada, M.A. (2021). My mental health struggle in academia: What I wish all business school faculty, students, and administration knew. Journal of Management Education 21:1, 19–42.
Tinto, V. (2000). Taking retention seriously: Rethinking the first year of college. NACADA Journal 19:2, 5–10.
Zurlo, M.C., Cattaneo Della Volta, M.F. & Vallone, F. (2020). COVID-19 Student stress questionnaire: Development and validation of a questionnaire to evaluate students’ stressors related to the coronavirus pandemic lockdown. Frontiers in Psychology 11:576758.





4.3 The Future of Nordic Business Education