How Have Learning Theories Been Used In eLearning?
Learning theories were created as a basis to understand how people learn and a way to explain, describe, analyze and predict how learning should take place. It is important for eLearning professionals to understand how learning takes place because they are in the business of helping people learn. By understanding the strengths and weaknesses of each learning theory, eLearning professionals can combine and apply a combination of learning theories that suits the needs of their learners best. Learning styles also help eLearning professionals formulate eLearning strategies, which in turn helps them motivate the learners, help to reinforce their character, facilitate the cognitive procedure, provide prompt and accurate feedback, identify and meet the specific needs of each learner and support her/him during the entire learning and development program.
Let’s have a look at all the learning theories that were and are still used by eLearning professionals in their eLearning courses:
1. The Behaviorist Learning Theory
The behaviorist learning theory is perhaps the oldest of learning theories, used by many educators of the past to teach and instruct learners. According to this theory, learning is an observable change in the behavior of the learner that originates from external conditions. Thus, this theory is all about provoking reactions from learners and detecting any changes in behavior. Things that invoke a reaction and a change in old behavior are repeated until they become new behavior. The behaviorist learning theory is still used in eLearning courses in the form of drag-and-drop exercises to classify concepts into different categories. Feedback is all-important in this theory, as it helps in the evaluation of correct or appropriate behavior.
2. The Cognitive Learning Theory
Some educators were of the opinion that not all learning was behavioral change, and thus not observable. This led to the creation of the cognitive learning theory, which states that learning involves a different kind of memories, motivation, and thinking. It also states that information is stored in memory using a node pattern that creates a network, where nodes are connected to each other by means of relations. The cognitive learning theory has further two aspects, social cognitive learning, which is used in eLearning as social learning, and cognitive behavioral learning, which is used in eLearning by reminding learners of concepts they already know at the beginning of a course, in order to activate the nodes of the brain related to the subject at hand.
3. The Constructivist Learning Theory
The constructivist learning theory is the theory that is still widely used by eLearning professionals. This theory states that learners interpret and encode the information on the basis of their own personal perception and experiences. Learners bring with them rich reserves of experiences that form the foundation of their learning. They analyze, rationalize, synthesize, and develop new ideas or tweak old ones through the filter of their experiences. This means that learners learn better when they are able to attribute a personal meaning or connection to information. The theory is used in eLearning by giving real-life perspectives to learners by using simulations, or through story-telling, thus providing learners with something they can relate or emotionally connect with.
4. The Active Learning Theory
The active learning theory too is a modern learning theory like the constructivist learning theory and is the most widely used in eLearning programs these days. Learners learn best when they learn by doing. The active learning theory says that learners should be actively engaged or involved in the learning procedure in order to learn better. Interactivities, gamification, quizzes, and exercises are all elements in eLearning which adhere to the active learning theory.
Each theory offers a different way to look at learning and the essential ingredients that make learning happen. In order to create an effective eLearning course for modern learners, eLearning professionals must use a variety of eLearning strategies while keeping in mind the learning theories they adhere to, in order to help them learn and retain information better. Each theory has influenced and shaped instructional practices and methods and all-new theories will continue to do so. Thus, eLearning designers must begin the design of training by first identifying the goal of training and then select the right theoretical framework or a combination of them to help achieve those learning outcomes.