Book Review – Character Formation in Online Education

Character Formation in Online Education.
Joanne J. Jung. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2015.


Dr. Joanne J. Jung’s book, Character Formation in Online Education, challenges the reader to think of the online course as more than just an online class, but to think about the online education opportunity as valuable as a traditional classroom education setting. The volume serves as a guide to help the online educator prompt meaningful online participation. The book is broken into three sections: 1) addressing the challenges of developing and teaching an online course, 2) ideas on how to create a stimulating online classroom environment, and 3) a discussion on the value of class evaluation.

In section one, the first challenge is moving past the idea that an online course is void of potential inspiration by the educator. Jung summarizes character formation in education as both the educator and the student being challenged and changed through discussion. Jung urges educators to be as intentional about their online course development as they are in their face-to-face class development. She encapsulates five qualifications for a successful online course, and defines the different features in typical online course delivery systems. Finally, Jung offers the benefits and drawbacks of educators collaborating with online course designers throughout the course development process in relation to the intentionality of the covered content.

In section two, Jung writes, “The goal is character formation, and educators can provide opportunities for students to change something about themselves and grow as a person” (p. 60). She argues that this is accomplished in an online course through creating community and fostering meaningful online discussion while recognizing appropriate social boundaries that extend to social media. “The reward for your efforts will emerge over time … as you witness changes in students’ thinking processes, a greater attentiveness to their own integration of faith and learning, changes in their biblical worldview, and reflections on applied knowledge that transforms their own character” (p. 110).

The final section addresses the dreaded end of semester course evaluation. It is in this section that Jung argues that “assessment (is) a matter (of) good stewardship” (p. 114). Jung dares the reader to inventory his or her contributions to the course development and standards for grading student work in an online course with the end of semester evaluation. In essence, Jung summons the reader to use the course evaluation, or assessment, as an opportunity to improve, or polish, the online course.

Jung’s book functions as a quick guide in online course development, arguing for high standards to be set by educators in online course participation. Jung asserts that intentionality and higher standards in course participation are what foster character formation in an online course setting. Although the title is ambiguous, this book is an excellent, quick overview for anyone who has been assigned to teach an online course and may be unsure where to begin in course development. The volume would also be profitable for anyone who would like to expand on an online course already developed.

Two criticisms of Jung’s work follow. First, since engaging a student is the responsibility of the educator, a reader may rightly expect and appreciate more advice on student motivation, especially in an online course, and the role of a student’s personal responsibility to learn course content for the sake of his or her own character formation. Second, the book tends to present online course development and student engagement as an easy formula, but student engagement in an online course is also factored by the student’s motivation and desire to learn the course material (or just pass the class). However, Jung does acknowledge this risk as the very argument of her book: trying to achieve character formation extending to the online course.

Rebecca J. Ristow, PLMHP, NCC (CUNE 2010)
Clinical Therapist
Behaven Kids, Lincoln, NE



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