With the increasingly widespread adoption of online learning, education is at an important crossroads. Spirituality and character building were once an important part of formal education. In the more secular modern era, many institutions of higher learning have neglected the spiritual aspects of teaching and learning. There is increasing academic interest in the relationship between spirituality and education. At the same time, relatively little attention has been paid to how spiritual and character development can be facilitated in online courses. This study seeks to better understand the how to develop spirituality and character building more effectively in online education through three related studies. The first article explores published research related to spirituality and education. Definitions are derived for two different perspectives, a contemporary North American view, and the Brigham Young University view. A second article reports on a quantitative analysis of how spiritually strengthening and character building, both Aims of a BYU Education, were accomplished in 63 online courses taught recently at BYU from the perspective of approximately 1730 students. The third article, “Spiritual and Character Development in Online Education from the Instructors’ Perspective”, qualitatively investigates the actions of instructors to more effectively accomplish these two Aims in their online courses based on their self-reported responses to six open-ended questions. Students responded to 77 questions (using 7-point Likert Scales) related to these two Aims. Structural Equation Modeling showed four constructs as having significant influence on their spiritual and character development: genuine caring for students (by teachers), Gospel connections, instructor’s morality, and ethics in relation to the course. Twelve subfactors of social, cognitive and teacher presence, and student engagement indicated these four subfactors related to spiritual and character development. Instructors that are more intentional and explicit also utilize active learning techniques. These ask students to do more than just read about or talk about spirituality and character development. Rather, they involve students in active learning activities such as reflecting on ethics, creating personal value statements/constitutions, and setting and periodically reporting on related goals.



College and Department

David O. McKay School of Education; Instructional Psychology and Technology



Date Submitted


Document Type





religious factors, ethics, electronic learning, active learning, teacher student relationship, interaction



Included in

Education Commons