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Character Formation in Online Education: A Guide for Instructors, Administrators, and Accrediting Agencies

Jung, Joanne J.
Zondervan , 2015

Book Review

Tags: online education   |   online learning   |   online programs   |   online teaching
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Reviewed by: James Waddell, Grand Canyon University
Date Reviewed: November 30, -0001
Joanne Jung’s overview of character formation in online education serves as an introductory resource for the topic. It is primarily intended to be a practical and accessible guide for faculty and administrators at religious institutions that offer online courses. Throughout the book Jung tackles the “skepticism among educators about character formation in online education” (15). The book examines various aspects of online learning and how it contributes to character formation. <...

Joanne Jung’s overview of character formation in online education serves as an introductory resource for the topic. It is primarily intended to be a practical and accessible guide for faculty and administrators at religious institutions that offer online courses. Throughout the book Jung tackles the “skepticism among educators about character formation in online education” (15). The book examines various aspects of online learning and how it contributes to character formation.

In the beginning section, Jung addresses the purpose of online education alongside best practices for online pedagogy. She provides an overview of Learning Management Systems, which house online classes, as well as an overview of the course design process, which involves working as a team with a curriculum and instruction expert. The second section discusses best practices of pedagogy within online courses, focusing on a holistic view of human personhood that drives one’s approach to character formation. Jung discusses practical means for using discussion forums, hybrid classroom formats, and social media toward the end of character formation, including an important chapter on integrating faith and learning. The final section addresses assessment and improvements that administrators and faculty can make to online courses in order to achieve learning outcomes for character formation more consistently. Jung also includes an accessible and informative glossary of terms relevant to online education.

Faculty who are unfamiliar with teaching online courses will find this book a valuable help in beginning to teach and form character in online modalities. Administrators and accrediting agencies will find many sections useful for their purposes as well, especially chapter three on course design teams, chapter seven on the integration of faith and learning, and chapter nine on assessment. As Jung writes, her purpose in the book is to give “practical ideas for customizing your online courses and improving your pedagogical methodology, irrespective of your discipline” (9).

One concern with the text is its basic, introductory approach. For faculty and administration who are experienced with online education, the book will be primarily review, albeit with a clear focus on character formation. Chapter seven on the integration of faith and learning and chapter nine on assessment are important exceptions, and they present insights for any institution concerned with character formation in education. Additional studies could help supplement and add insight to some of the essential points that Jung makes, particularly studies that focus on the creation, delivery, and assessment of learning outcomes specifically designed for the purpose of character formation. Such studies could engage resources on moral or character education and focus on the application of character formation research to online modalities. If one is looking for an introductory guide to forming character in the world of online education, this book provides resourceful and insightful suggestions toward best practices.

In order to delve deeper into character formation for online education, there remains a need for further pedagogical study regarding the application of character formation research in general to online education in particular and regarding the means of facilitating character growth in the learning environments of online education.

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Best Practices in Online Program Development: Teaching and Learning in Higher Education

King, Elliot; and Alperstein, Neil
Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, 2015

Book Review

Tags: online course design   |   online programs   |   online teaching
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Reviewed by: Philip Wingeier-Rayo, Wesley Theological Seminary
Date Reviewed: October 15, 2015
This compact guide on building online programs has practical tips for faculty and administrators in higher education who are at various stages of online delivery. While mostly aimed at beginners, the book has ideas for institutions in the first, second, third, and fourth generations of distance learning, whether it is just one course, one department, a program or online delivery is fully integrated into the university’s strategic plan. The ...

This compact guide on building online programs has practical tips for faculty and administrators in higher education who are at various stages of online delivery. While mostly aimed at beginners, the book has ideas for institutions in the first, second, third, and fourth generations of distance learning, whether it is just one course, one department, a program or online delivery is fully integrated into the university’s strategic plan. The authors share from personal experience, surveys of faculty and students, as well as best practices from accrediting bodies to assure the reader will enter the online delivery method with eyes wide open. The book also has helpful suggestions for administrators and instructors who have experience with online education, but are trying to move their program to the next level. After a brief history of distance education and its place within higher education, the authors cite a study by the Babson Survey Research Group indicating that 6.7 million students in 2011 took an online class (a jump of 9.3 percent from 2010) and one-third of college students had taken at least one online class (compared to less than 10 percent in 2003). The authors state many reasons for offering online classes: overcoming space limitations, reaching students who were not accepted in the traditional admissions process, non-traditional students and students with disabilities—who may not otherwise come to campus because of mobility or accessibility issues. Students also choose online programs because of the flexibility to study around family, work and personal commitments.  Whatever their reasons for studying online, the book emphasizes the different study skills to succeed. The authors suggest that admission offices should find a way to assess readiness to assure student success and in best practice offer an orientation, ongoing support and an ample IT staff.

The authors acknowledge that teaching will be different online than in the traditional classroom and administrators may find resistance from faculty. Therefore they recommend seeking faculty volunteers to teach online. According to a 2003 study, many faculty believe that teaching online requires more time than conventional teaching and a 2012 survey revealed that two-thirds of faculty believed that the educational outcomes were inferior to face-to-face teaching. Yet the authors estimate that between 25 and 33 percent of post-secondary faculty have taught at least one course online. Faculty also perceive advantages such as greater flexibility and reaching more and a different variety of students. Of course, faculty will have to make changes to relate to online students, for example Skype office hours, being socially present, while also managing student expectations for email correspondence. Once a class is prepared it is easier to teach again and can be taught by another instructor, however universities should have a clear policy of intellectual property rights. Other benefits of online teaching are greater attention to learning outcomes, methodology and assessment.

This book is not a “how to” book for instructors to develop an online class, nor is it an exhaustive manual for administrators, but it is an excellent overview and beginners guide for administrators to learn the challenges and best practices of high quality online programs.

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