How do learning theories manifest themselves in online courses?
Learning theories refers to “how information is absorbed, process, and retained during learning” (Wikipedia, 2016). According to The Graduate Student Instructor Teaching & Resource Center at Berkeley University, there are three basic types which include Behaviorism, Cognitive Constructivism, and Social Constructivism (2016). Moore, et. al. list three components of Instructional Systems Design, which were developed during WWII. These include systems theories, behavioral psychology, and information theory (p. 97).
I consider myself to fall into the cognitive constructive category. I do believe that “a learner’s ability to learn relies to a large extent on what he already knows and understands, and the acquisition of knowledge should be an individually tailored process of construction” (Wikipedia, 2016). For the most part I do fall in this category. I do believe that a teacher is mainly a facilitator. However, like most people, I also have beliefs in other theories. Following the behaviorist approach I do think that repetition is needed for math and reading. I do believe that extrinsic motivation helps, but also should not be relied on. In the social constructivism approach I agree that social activities facilitate learning and collaborative learning should be done.
Theories and Online Courses & Their Correlation with Current Research
These theories have affected how online courses are facilitated. In the Instructional Systems Design there are five stages which are Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation, and Evaluation (Moore et.al, 2011, p.98). In all of these stages parts of the different theories are present. For example, the constructivist believes that “active assimilation and accommodation of new information to existing cognitive structures” is important in the learning process (Berkeley GSI, 2016). In the Implementation phase, “their instructional materials are delivered, and they interact with their instructors and perhaps other students, based on the materials and teaching plans so carefully designed in advance” (More, et.al, p.99).
Just like in planning for a face to face class, or class less distant, the facilitator must decide the objective, how to facilitate students in reaching the objective, and how this will be assessed. In all these stages, ideas in the different learning theories are present. It goes a step further when the facilitator must decide what technology should be used. Moore, et.al., stated, “When integrating different media into a single course, one of the most important design considerations is to ensure that the media work together” to ensure that students don’t get lost when working with different components (p.92).
Moore, Michael G.; Kearsley, Greg (2011-04-22). Distance Education: A Systems View of Online Learning (What’s New in Education) (Page 45-125). Cengage Textbook. Kindle Edition.
GSI Teaching & Resource Center (2016). Overview of Learning Theories. Retrieved from: http://gsi.berkeley.edu/gsi-guide-contents/learning-theory-research/learning-overview/