Seeking Eudaimonia in Online Education

Authored by: Beatriz Valverde , Erica C. Boling

The Routledge Handbook of Positive Communication

Print publication date:  December  2018
Online publication date:  January  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138633278
eBook ISBN: 9781315207759
Adobe ISBN:


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Although most students in higher education institutions continue to enroll in courses where instruction occurs in a more “traditional,” face-to-face environment, research reveals that post-secondary education has been rapidly increasing its presence in the online realm. A significant percentage of these institutions now view online learning as a critical part of their long-term strategy. Universities are turning to online education for a number of reasons, including the ability to reach a wider audience, offer students more scheduling flexibility, and lower overall costs to the university. Although valid reasons exist for increasing online instruction, scholars still debate the effectiveness of e-learning, having concerns regarding its impact on the quality of higher education. Research shows many challenges do exist when instruction is moved fully online, including lower completion rates for online courses compared to face-to-face courses and challenges surrounding how to personalize and humanize the online learning experience. There is also a greater need for online students to be self-directed learners. In this chapter, we draw from the challenges and limitations of online learning in higher education as it is currently conceived to underscore the importance of heutagogy, a form of self-determined learning, as an optimal approach to online learning. By grounding instruction in heutagogical practices, students experience increased autonomy, confidence, and self-realization, leading them to become aware of their own strengths (and weaknesses), thereby enhancing learning. This chapter establishes connections between heutagogy, online learning, and the eudaimonic realm of happiness as described in positive psychology, especially in relation to Selingman’s personal strengths. The chapter also illustrates how grounding instruction in heutagogical and eudaimonic practices will ultimately lead to motivated, self-directed learners who maintain the positive mood that is needed to persist when challenges arise.

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