Essential Question: How Do Learning Theories Manifest Themselves in Online Courses?
In order for an online class to be successful, a learning theory needs to be in place. “The way a teacher chooses to design and facilitate an online class can greatly affect what students learn. Learning theory, therefore, plays a pivotal role in online courses” (Knabe, 2004).
When we are taking online classes, we don’t realize that learning theories are already in place. You think about getting grades, which could fall under a behaviorist theory. If a student is not doing well, the teacher will have a talk with them. If the student is doing well, the grades will reflect it. Another concept that I think falls in online course is ZPD or “Zone Proximal Development.” This is when learners solve problems beyond their actual development level with guidance from an adult or peers (Harasim, 2012).
Constructivism is one of the most frequently cited theoretical frameworks applied to online course development and teaching (Knabe, 2004). Constructivism is a learning theory that emphasizes the student’s construction of reality and the Internet also lends itself to display of visual models that deepen students’ understanding of complex concepts(Driscoll, 2000). Here, learners are engaged in their learning and seek to understand the world around them. As Knabe (2004) observes, “ Some researchers suggest that online environments, coupled with constructivist design, are the key to developing successful courses for the next generation of students.”
In online classes the structure is different than in face-to-face classes. “In a constructivist setting, this paradigm shifts, and online teachers act as a ‘guide on the side’, facilitating learning as it takes place among the students
themselves” (Knabe, 2004). Knabe also points out that learners are routinely responsible for expressing learning goals, are more self-directed, and take an active role in monitoring their learning and reflecting on their growth. The ways we interact with each other in online classes include chat, blackboard, web-meetings, twitter, blogs, and email. All of these activities are constructivist in nature when they focus more on group work than individualized work (Knabe, 2004).
I never would have thought about what learning theory is in place when I am taking an online class. Now that I am reading about it I can understand it more. I look forward to understanding more about learning theories and how they fit in the online world of education that also many of us fall under now.
Driscoll, M. P. (2000). Psychology of learning for instruction. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon.
Harasim, L. M. (2012). Learning theory and online technology. New York, NY: Routledge.
Knabe, A. P. (2004). Constructivist learning perspectives in online public relations classrooms.