Parker, Mahler & Edwards

Humanizing Online Learning Experiences

Nichole Parker, Athabasca University
Beth Perry Mahler, Athabasca University
Margaret Edwards, Athabasca University


Background: It is common for postsecondary online students to experience feelings of isolation and disconnection that negatively influences their learning experience, academic success, and student retention rates. Best figure teaching practices regarding online andragogy (the method and practice of teaching adults) suggest that maximizing human interactions in online learning spaces creates feelings of closeness and connectedness. The positive outcome results in enhanced feelings of belonging and engagement motivation of students. A question to be answered is: What does it mean to humanize postsecondary online learning experiences and which strategies maintain this sense of human presence?

Purpose: This paper summarizes evidence from credible peer-reviewed literature related to the concept of humanizing online postsecondary education in order to enhance the online learning experience. Themes from the literature review are described.

Methods: We used a four-stage algorithm with 83 articles. Applying an exclusion and screening process yielded 15 articles for complete review. We conducted an interrater reliability check using two of the selected articles.

Conclusion: This paper provides practical guidance for online educators and course designers who aim to humanize postsecondary online educational experiences. To humanize technology is to dim the awareness and perception of the virtual aspect in digital milieus. In other words, in humanity-infused learning environments, participants view technology as an extension of themselves and as an asset that further strengthens the art and science of online pedagogy. Educators can deliberately use online pedagogical strategies to extend their humanity in online learning spaces. The outcome is postsecondary learning environments that students perceive as more caring and interactive and lead to enhanced engagement in learning, greater academic success (achievement of educational goals), and student retention.

Keywords: humanizing postsecondary online learning, digital pedagogy, online andragogy, caring online, digital milieus

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