Have We Lost the Human Element of Education?

It seems that everything is online these days: we can shop online, schedule appointments online, and we can even learn online. Lately, online learning has gained popularity. From K-12 charter and cyber schools to actual college degrees and graduate-level courses, students of all ages and backgrounds are attaining an education and achieving credentials at a personalized pace, made possible by online learning. But have we lost the human element of education?

Why Education is Different, and What Teachers Can Do to Humanize It 

There is a real concern that machines are slowly taking over positions that were previously filled by people, but the unique nature of teaching and learning is an entirely different situation. Teachers can and should leverage instructional technologies in the classroom to support their practice and enhance learning, and these technologies can help teachers maintain an intentional focus on the human element. Learning is social, and learner-inspired motivation not only comes from curiosity but also through the connections that are developed through connectedness, meaningful interactions, compassion and empathy.

A New Online Course from Eduspire and Wilson College

In the new online course titled Humanizing Online Learning, developed by Wilson College in partnership with Eduspire, one key element is peer review, which is used not only to foster some of the very skills the course is hoping to refine but also to provide the students with a true learning community and cultivate an environment of continuous improvement. Participants in the graduate-level course will find that it examines how to use one’s teacher presence in virtual instructional environments to humanize online learning. By fostering academic and social connections, teachers can build empathy, personalize learning and increase student motivation.

When students feel a connection to their instructor and the larger classroom community they are more motivated to learn, feel satisfaction with their work, and achieve success. Humanizing Online Learning has been designed to help teachers develop skills to keep the human element in their teaching as they move towards more online environments. Leveraging digital tools to create community and foster academic and social connections will not only elevate teaching and learning strategies but also enhance course design with emerging technologies. To humanize online instruction, teachers must critically analyze their teaching philosophy as it relates to online learning, understand how to use their teacher presence to personalize the learning environment, and leverage the use of emerging technologies and course design options that create high impact interactions.

It’s Not Always Black-and-White

While the concepts of personalized learning, online learning, individualization and EdTech all have their advocates and opponents, Stephen Pham says it doesn’t have to be so black-and-white. In his EdSurge article, Teachers and Technology Must Not Be an Either/Or Dichotomy,” Pham asserts:

we must recognize that either side in these false dichotomies (e.g., teachers vs. technology, individualization vs. humanization, etc.) is not sufficient to serving our students best. As a former classroom educator, I’ve found that the intersections at which “opposing” sides actually align are where we’ll discover the best solutions for our classrooms.

In fact, as a result of taking this course, educators can expect to be able to:

  • Justify the value of humanizing online instruction to increase student motivation.

  • Identify, examine and give examples of the skills, dispositions and habits of successful online learners and instructors.

  • Apply effective strategies to foster cognitive and social connections.

  • Develop tools and messages to facilitate teacher presence.

  • Create course design and delivery elements to aid social interaction to create community.

  • Develop a course unit plan to enhance online instruction and incorporate elements that humanize the online experience for students.

More on the subject and the inspiration behind it: How to Keep the Human Element in Distance Learning,” via EdTech Review

Interested in Learning More?

Interested in humanizing your online course? This new online course, Humanizing Online Learning, will be offered for the first time this October and taught by Eduspire instructor Allison Mackley. You can also sign up for our emails to receive course reminders and Eduspire updates.