Learning Theories and E-Learning / by Tyler Wood

I doubt it is a controversial claim that the world is glued to their digital screens more and more. Whether it’s the smart phone, laptop, or desk-top computer, people are getting more and more accustomed and comfortable with staring at screens. Even school kids that are supposed to be listening to their teacher in class would rather be looking at a digital screen, albeit to play games. There are definite benefits to having a teacher in front of you, but there are also many benefits for moving education into the digital format of e-learning. 

Much like teaching face-to-face, e-learning design has a few learning theories to choose from, so what kind do I choose? 

One interesting theory is the Experiential learning theory that proposes that “learning is about meaningful experiences - in everyday life - that lead to a change in an individual’s knowledge and behaviours” (UNESCO, n.d.). As a person with wanderlust that has seen my fair share of new places and cultures, I find this theory in line with my personal experience, actually. I believe the classroom shows this to be true with the interaction of students and how they learn from each other’s behavior and ideas and their own ideas that get a positive response from the group. This could be argued to agree with Skinner’s idea of positive and negative stimuli (UNESCO, n.d.), but I think it goes deeper into the social behavior of learning and not the individual learning of a student, evidenced by different students playing different roles in classes. Sometimes the smart, outspoken student in one class will be shy in another. To my eyes, this matches the social interaction and experiential learning ideas more than Skinner’s behaviorism. I find this intriguing because I can see and experience this in a classroom quite easily, but to try and transfer this idea into an e-learning environment might be a challenge. 

However, in the case of involving the students in the experience, the experience of writing, instead of talking, to each other can be beneficial when writing and written communication is more in-line with the standards or learning goals of the class. The experience is going to be able to be different and possibly more involved for the students (if properly designed) which would fit well into the theory because “learning can only be facilitated: we cannot teach another person directly” (UNESCO, n.d.). The e-learning environment can help facilitate learning by creating unique experiences that sitting in a classroom might have difficulty doing. 

I think many of the theories are interesting, but this one struck me as one I would like to learn more about because it fits into my personal experience well. 

Click below for more information on instructional strategies and what is compatible with e-learning.



United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. (n.d.). Most influential theories in learning. Retrieved from http://www.unesco.org/new/en/education/themes/strengthening-education-systems/quality-framework/technical-notes/influential-theories-of-learning/

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