This review focuses on three interconnected socio-emotional aspects of online learning: interaction, sense of community and identity formation. In the intangible social space of the virtual classroom, students come together to learn through dialogic, often asynchronous, exchanges. This creates distinctive learning environments where learning goals, interpersonal relationships and emotions are no less important because of their ‘virtualness’, and for which traditional face-to-face pedagogies are not neatly transferrable. The literature reveals consistent connections between interaction and sense of community. Yet identity, which plausibly and naturally emerges from any social interaction, is much less explored in online learning. While it is widely acknowledged that interaction increases the potential for knowledge-building, the literature indicates that this will be enhanced when opportunities encouraging students’ emergent identities are embedded into the curriculum. To encourage informed teaching strategies this review seeks to raise awareness and stimulate further exploration into a currently under-researched facet of online learning.