Online Learning: e-tivity 2.2

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Learning theories help us as educators and as learners to recognise how and why we learn. Understanding some of the psychological concepts and principles of learning as described by various theorists will enable you to better design instructional materials and situations to suit your learners. I invite you to consider the learning theories outlined in Anderson and Elloumi  (2004) and demonstrate your understanding of each of them. I also invite you to look at the Instructional methods and consider how they reflect our understanding of our learners.

Ally and Anderson (2008) write about online learning and the educational theories that shape and inform design practices. They both argue that no one theory should be used when designing an online learning experience and that differentiation of all students through learner, knowledge and assessment centred activities should occur.

Focusing on behaviourist, cognitivist theories, and exploring Kolb’s Learning Style Inventory I reflected that I have actually used all these theories in one way or another when designing learning projects for my students. I don’t think I consciously do this but as differentiation is critical in teaching, as is working from the Quality Teaching model, it just seems to happen. I feel that this has definitely enabled me to deliver richer learning experiences for my students that allow them to own and share their learning.  Vygotsky (as cited in Anderson, 2008) relates this as social cognition and Anderson calls it ‘community centred learning’. I have students now that are my ‘experts’ and provide support to other students in other classes and schools  in the use of virtual technology.

Immediately I think of this quote from Aristotle where the  ‘whole is greater than the sum of its parts’ and how this links to the emergence theory which I tend to align myself to as many of my project designs have been the result of very organic/creative planning (Kays & Sims, 2006). The work is student led and tends to take on a life of its own and this also supports the concept of Active  Experimentation (Ally, 2008) as my students tend to take the scenario that has been given to them and push the final outcome much further than what I initially anticipated they would be able to do.

Finally, an observation made by Anderson (2008) was that though the web was a wonderful resource for learning to be mindful of the damage you can create if allowing students to access web based resources without proper support and guidance. Younger students can lose interest very quickly if they are not carefully mapped  to online resources relevant to the learning task. Many teachers create web quests centred around a unit theme and I have created a virtual one (HSIE) providing the appropriate links on the school blog for students to access relevant information to their learning task without being overwhelmed.


Ally, M. (2008). Foundations of educational theory for online learning. In T. Anderson & F. Elloumi (Eds.), The theory and practice of online learning (pp. 3-31): Athabasca University Press.

Anderson, T. (2008). Toward a theory of online learning.  In T. Anderson & F. Elloumi (Eds.), The theory and practice of online learning (pp. 33-60): Athabasca University Press.

Kays, E., & Sims, R. (2006). Reinventing and reinvigorating instructional design: A theory for emergent learning. Paper presented at the ASCILITE 2006 Conference, University of Sydney.


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