George Veletsianos’s book Learning Online: The Student Experience is both very timely and ill-timed in the spring of 2020. We all now of the widespread and nearly-instantaneous move to remote teaching. Online teaching and learning is on our minds and urgent request for “how do I…?” are filling our inboxes. It seems a book (especially one that can be accessed online for free and that is clear, well-researched, and well-referenced and that can be read in a couple of hours) is exactly what we need.
Veletsianos has a much different goal than supporting those who are thrust into online learning. Veletrianos does suggest that online learning is going to be an important venue for teaching and learning in the future of higher education. As he introduces the book, however, Veletrianos states his purpose, “By offering a deeper understanding and appreciation of learner experiences…. this book is intended to help us learn more about our students and uncover ways we can refine and improve online teaching,
learning, and education (p. 2).
Each chapter begins with a vignette of brief profile of a student. These embody the diverse range and motivations of online learners. These individuals and their stories are familiar to those who have worked in the field or who have paid attention to the literature in the field. They are here, all in one place, and together for us to understand.
It is clear from the teaching described, the author is an advocate for online teaching that is not simply watching video lectures. Emotion, interaction, social presence are all themes one encounters throughout the book. As we begin to contemplate higher education after the current crisis ends, it is likely that online teaching will be a part of those plans.
Veletsianos’ book reminds us to be very aware of our students while we plan and design programs. Online learning opens higher education to many who cannot access it otherwise; it also provides tools and opportunities not available otherwise. If we are to be meet our students’ needs through online learning, our students and their experience must be our primary focus. This theme is well-developed in this book and it is an excellent synopsis of common experiences.
Veletsianos, G. (2020). Learning online: The student experience. Johns Hopkins University Press.
The ebook is available from the JohnHopins University Press Project MUSE site: https://muse.jhu.edu/book/73824