Where’s the character education in online higher education? Constructivism, virtue ethics and roles of online educators

Tom Harrison, David Laco

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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As a long-term trend as well as a crisis-response to the Covid-19 pandemic, online education is increasingly becoming a supplement and /or substitute to face-to-face teaching. Online education has many advantages; however, it also threatens the relational and character-building aspect of education. In this article, we argue that it is incumbent for universities to become intentional about how to develop their students’ character and especially practical wisdom much needed in later professional life. Considering the growth of online education, we offer an initial theoretical and practical input about how such character development could be achieved in this context. Building on the theoretical basis of principles from constructivist learning and neo-Aristotelian virtue ethics, we outline two important roles those running online learning programmes should fulfil; that of character educators and character facilitators and illustrate these in the context of online discussion rooms. We conclude that online higher educators, particularly those developing professionals, must pay more explicit attention to the cultivation of character and wisdom in their teaching, and we make a case for further research to understand which pedagogical approaches have the most impact. The article provides both impetus and a framework for carrying out this research. The arguments made are significant as there has been little prior theory, research and practice that can be utilised to cultivate character through online education.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)555-573
Number of pages19
JournalE-Learning and Digital Media
Issue number6
Early online date30 May 2022
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2022.


  • Higher education
  • character
  • constructivism
  • discussion boards
  • online education
  • virtue ethics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Computer Science Applications


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