Skip main navigation

£199.99 £139.99 for one year of Unlimited learning. Offer ends on 28 February 2023 at 23:59 (UTC). T&Cs apply

Find out more

Humanity of learning online

The humanity of learning online
It’s like on the news. We’re recording! One of my favourite things about this course and I hope will have a lasting impact beyond the course is we talk a lot about the students but it it’s about the educators. It’s about the relationship that we are building with the students through the content, through the supportive discussions, through the forums and I hope that the activities, the way we’re engaging as a community of learners, we’ve injected the humanity back into online learning. And that humanity, the way it comes about it’s going to manifest itself in various ways and that feeling that students will have, participants on the course, thinking about this works for me that doesn’t work for me.
There’s a real human element about walking in your students shoes. Which you will bring to your own practice beyond the two weeks and kind of thinking about actually online learning doesn’t need to feel detached and that sense of confidence, that sense of this can work, it can look all these different ways there isn’t one fixed formula. It’s that kind of mindset, that shift in thinking that will also hopefully last beyond the two-week course.
Yeah, I think that’s really true Brinder, you know it can feel a bit kind of anonymous at times can’t it when you’re learning online and so as you say, hopefully, some of what we’ve included in this course can help to overcome that together so students have got the opportunity to feel that sense of belonging, part of the community and hopefully having a chance to interact in those different kind of formats as you mentioned, so whether that’s commenting, or you know, liking replying to other people’s posts opportunity to get involved in things like interactive polls and to experiment with the different types of you know platforms and tools that we’ve got available and as you say it’s our hope that people can start to experiment a little bit with that with their own students and knowing that there are general principles theories etc that we can share and explore together but at the same time it’s recognising that we’re all coming at this from different angles we’ve all got our own context our own practices and it’s really valid to try and kind of make those connections, start to develop that skill of reflecting on your practice becoming a reflective practitioner and how you might like to take that forward as a result of engaging in the course.
somebody may not be that willing or eager to jump onto an online course and kind of post things and comment straight away or be particularly sort of active in that kind of very sort of making those explicit comments, they might want to just kind of stay back and read other comments and be very selective about how they engage with the online course and that’s fantastic as well and I feel that the online learning space allows for students to do that.
I agree, I think it offers real flexibility doesn’t it at the end of the day so we recognise that some people kind of, having a big presence is really important others are happier to maybe take more of a back seat but still to be learning and developing you know through the reading through learning from other people’s comments and so on and that’s fine, so I think the online format is really versatile in that regard and then the more obvious benefits such as you know timing, when you decide to participate in the course, what time of day, how long you want to spend etc, that really gives people a lot of flexibility.
So Annie we hear a lot about the benefits of online learning, the flexibility being one of the the key attractive features of learning online but let’s, in reality let’s face it, there are some drawbacks that have been reported both in research and we know from our own students as well and some of these can be around sort of a sense of feeling isolated because you’re learning through a screen feeling a little bit detached or maybe you know some disconnect and not having that kind of human interaction that you might have in a face-to-face classroom but I think there are things we can do and we include those within our course don’t we Annie, trust, the research shows is very important in kind of building a sense of community and overcoming that sense of isolation when you’re learning online.
I mean in in face-to-face teaching as well but particularly pronounced in online learning building confidence about feeling that you do have support that you can rely on your peers you can rely on educators within the online space should you need to kind of talk about any challenges or if you have any great ideas and on the course we kind of embed activities that hopefully, we think they do, encourage people to connect in different ways and that’s partly centred around sharing a little bit about yourselves, sharing a little about practice but doing it in kind of non-traditional ways.
So kind of using diverse digital tools which allows you to engage in different ways so it might be visual, it could be text based, it could be audio really kind of responding to giving choice to our students shall we say about how they choose to share information about themselves. I mean that’s just one example, we talk a lot about the research about building trust and inclusivity in online learning, which they’ll be able to explore we get them to participate in it don’t we and kind of kind of feel what it is like.
Does it make a difference to you so having kind of engaged in these activities and these tasks which is all about building trust and confidence, has it changed the way you feel, do you feel like you belong a little bit more and then kind of prompting that reflection around is this something I could take away to my own practice? And the great thing is you can take these things away not just in an online environment but face to face or any other mode you may be delivering whether blended or hybrid.

Research into online education, particularly asynchronous learning, has generated mixed findings.

While the increased availability of distance learning has made education more accessible, some scholars report online courses can lead to student feelings of “isolation” or disconnect (Croft et al., 2010, p. 31).

Stoytcheva (2021, p. 8) however, argues that learning online doesn’t have to be a lonely or detached experience. She suggests feelings of isolation can be minimised by employing “collaborative learning scenarios” and “creating conditions for the formation of an online learning community.”

You started this week by learning a little about the course educators through video. Did the video provide a more ‘human form’ of content? Did it offer ‘indicators of personality’ and authenticity of the educators? Did you feel welcomed by them?

Then, you also shared a little about yourselves on Padlet and you learned a bit more about your peers. Did these insights help develop a sense of community for you?

Croft et al., (2010), in their interviews and workshops with students, find that learners desire a “human dimension” to learning. They want educators to “put into place a variety of practices to ‘humanise’ the online distance learning courses” so that they consist of:

  • Choice
  • Collaborative tasks and activities
  • Friendly welcome
  • Multimedia learning
  • Opportunities to participate
  • Photographs and biographies
  • Social networking etc.

(Stoytcheva, 2021; Croft et al., 2015)

Your task

Watch the video of Brinder and Annie sharing their views on what they describe as ‘injecting the humanity into online learning.’ Then, respond to one of the following in the comments area below:
Share your views on the notion of ‘humanising’ online learning supported with rationale
Tell us what has helped you to stay engaged with learning online and why.


Croft, N., Dalton, A., & Grant, M. (2010). Overcoming Isolation in Distance Learning: Building a Learning Community through Time and Space. The Journal for Education in the Built Environment, 5(1), 27-64. Locate link

Stoytcheva, M. (2021). Developing a sense of belonging in a collaborative distance learning course: Breaking isolation in online learning. AIP Conference Proceedings, 2333(1), AIP conference proceedings, 2021-03-08, Vol.2333 (1). Locate link

This article is from the free online

Exploring Teaching and Assessment for Higher Education

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Our purpose is to transform access to education.

We offer a diverse selection of courses from leading universities and cultural institutions from around the world. These are delivered one step at a time, and are accessible on mobile, tablet and desktop, so you can fit learning around your life.

We believe learning should be an enjoyable, social experience, so our courses offer the opportunity to discuss what you’re learning with others as you go, helping you make fresh discoveries and form new ideas.
You can unlock new opportunities with unlimited access to hundreds of online short courses for a year by subscribing to our Unlimited package. Build your knowledge with top universities and organisations.

Learn more about how FutureLearn is transforming access to education