This paper discusses how different learning theories affect the process of learning. It discusses the theories and looks into how each theory impacts on online learning – the latest form of technological advancement in learning. The paper also looks at how each learning theory can be used to ensure maximum benefits of knowledge acquisition through online learning. The paper discusses the learning theories of behaviorism, cognitive psychology, constructivism, experiential learning and multiple intelligences using the above framework. The paper shows what learning theories are, how they impact online learning and how they can be used to ensure knowledge acquisition in online learning.
Learning is a defined process that brings together environmental and personal processes to an individual to enable them acquire knowledge. A number of factors dictates learning, and if these factors are not met then, full understanding might not be achieved. Different theories have been put forward to explain the learning process. With the developments in technology, the learning process has been enlarged from the normal classroom setup to online learning among other types of learning.
Behaviorism is a learning theory that views the learning process as one that is characterized by a change in behavior. The change in behavior comes as a result of the acquisition of new knowledge, reinforcement of the knowledge and application of the same. The response or change in behavior is made possible due to a reward and will be made stronger through exercise and repetition. Behaviorism makes it possible to carry out online learning but with limitations. A learner will be able to access learning materials, and then their teacher will place a reward on them if they change in behavior and then supervise them undertake numerous examples. However, the limitation of this theory is the lack of physical contact that makes it impossible to administer a reward.
Behaviorism can be used to enhance online learning. The only way to do this is by having both the learner and the teacher present on the online learning platform at the same time, for example, through video conferencing. The teacher will pass information in a form of lecture and then promise a reward (positive or negative) to the learner. For example in a mathematics lesson, the teacher will tell the student to perform a mathematical problem after having introduced to them the concept. They will then promise to give them something if they succeed or punish them if they fail. After the exercise, the teacher will offer a chance for exercises by giving homework assignment and demand that it be presented in the next lecture.
The learning theory of cognitive psychology views the learner as a passive recipient of knowledge from their teacher. The theory views a learner as an information processor who absorbs the information provided to them by their teacher, carries out cognitive operations on the data and then stocks it in their memory. The cognitive theory makes online learning possible. In online learning, a learner and a teacher both in remote locations interact. The teacher performs the role of making information available. On the other end, the learner will play the role of processing the information and storing it. They will preserve it in their minds for application during examinations and in the process of life.
As cognitive psychology provides a platform for learning, online learning can be improved through timely provision of learning materials. The learner should be provided with all relevant reading materials, for example, notes on the topic of learning so that they can go through the notes by themselves early in time and understand. Alternatively, the online interaction, for example, through video conferencing should be used as a way to give lectures to learners from where they will gain information and store it in their minds. In both ways, provision of notes and online lectures, a learner will receive information, process it and then store it and so at the end of the day, they will have learned what they were expected to learn.
Constructivism learning theory has been used to describe the process of learning. The theory advocates that learners are not merely knowledge recipients rather they actively participate in constructing the knowledge that they get. It advocated for a learner-centered approach to learning where the role of a teacher is to guide a student through learning and not only to transmit knowledge. The theory makes it possible for online learning. It is from this theory that teacher can talk about their role in learning being to provide less than 25% of the knowledge and the rest is upon the student.
Online learning can be argued from the perspective of the constructivism theory. The theory’s part in online learning is for the teacher to provide directions to his or her students. It allows the teacher to send instructions to the learners, for example, through emails or the online platform they use, and it’s left to the effort of the student to take initiative and follow the instructions for them to acquire the knowledge. This theory brings the understanding of learning that has given room for teachers never to interact with their learners. Both of them log in to the online platform at different times, with the teacher leaving instructions and the learner just following the instructions.
Through the understanding of learning as brought by the constructivism theory, online learning technology can guarantee better understanding and passage of knowledge. The teacher should come in and give an online lecture to his student to ensure passage of information. The teacher will then take his student through a step to step guide to ensure the student grasps the knowledge intended. A good example would be where the teacher gives the student proceeds to the next step in learning only after being sure that the student understood the previous part.
The social learning theory was brought forth by Alex Bandura. The theory suggests that learning occurs in a social environment and is made possible through observation, imitation and modeling. According to the theory, learners learn through observing others. After observing others, they imitate and model to enhance their understanding. This theory limits the subjects that can be taught through online platforms. Subjects such as sciences do not find a room because the learner will have to see practical skills at the time of learning, for example, laboratory experiments. However, subjects such as humanities can be easily taught.
According to social learning theory, the learner will only better understand when they observe the type of knowledge they are being taught and practice it through imitation. The few subjects that this theory restricts that can be taught through online learning will be mathematics and humanities. The reasons for this is because, in mathematics, the students will see their teacher perform the calculations and from there they will be able to try and imitate the teacher’s accuracy. In humanities, the teacher through the online platform will pass the required knowledge and the students will be able to identify with it in the society, for example, community conflict resolution. From what they will see in the society, they will be able to imitate it and achieve understanding.
So as to ensure that the social learning theory is achieved through online learning, the types of disciplines taught through the platform must be ones that the student can identify with in their society. Since the teachers cannot give learners live experiences on the online platform, they should give them directions and demand that the students give feedback so that they can be assured that the knowledge was passed, for example, a teacher in project planning and management should direct his students to go and observe a project, interact with the project managers and be with them for sometimes and form a conclusion. The more the students will around project managers, they will learn the art of project management through observation and imitation and which is the concept that they were learning in class.
The experiential learning theory views learning as a process that is based on experiences. According to the theory, learning is a process that is made meaningful through experiences. Proposers of the theory argued that learning can only occur when the learner initiates the process of learning. Therefore, meaningful experiences whether first hand or second-hand ends up shaping the learning process.
Experiential learning theory places a lot of limitation on online learning. Online learning is not an enough platform to create experiences to learners in a way a physical teacher would introduce a mining lesson by taking his or her students to a mine. However, the theory gives room for online learning. A teacher on an online platform can direct a student to do a certain thing if they are sure the experience they will get will influence their understanding. However, the limitation of this is that a teacher cannot authenticate that the student did what they instructed them to do.
In online learning, the theory of experiential learning can be applied to achieve the best results. The way to go about it is for teachers to ensure that the learning process is an interactive one, where the teacher will only act as a reinforcement of the experiences, deriving meaning from the student’s experiences. A good example of this is where a teacher teaching a unit on mining on an online platform will direct his students to visit a mine before the teacher introduces the topic. During the introductory lesson, the teacher will request the student to share their experiences at the mine, the teacher will pinpoint important points from the student’s experience hence enabling them understand the topic more.
The learning theory of multiple intelligences also participates in explaining the effectiveness of online learning. The theory states that individuals or rather learners have multiple intelligences and which should be the focus of any education system. It advocates that learning should not only be seen as an interaction between skills, curriculum, and testing rather the multiple intelligences that the students can show. A learner can show musical, spatial, mathematical/logical, linguistic intrapersonal or interpersonal intelligences.
Multiple intelligences theory calls for more action in online learning. If online learning is to satisfy the ideas advocated in the theory, then it must move from the traditional passage of information to nurturing of student intelligences. Online learning should therefore not only be following a curriculum by providing information and then later testing if the students understand the concepts put forward in the information provided. It should ensure that logical, musical, linguistic, Intra and interpersonal relationship intelligences can be assessed and improved. Therefore, the theory broadens the scope of online learning.
Application of multiple intelligences theory into online learning can improve knowledge of online learners. Online learning should provide an opportunity and platform where the different intelligences that students have are examined, nurtured and developed. A good example of how that can be done is by having the interface of the online learning platform to be convenient for audio communication between the learner and teacher and between learners. Online learning should also move from the current provision of notes and administration of examinations online. It should ensure that only learning happen online while examinations and other tests happen physically. Such a move will ensure that intelligences that cannot be determined online are tested and nurtured.
Learning theories affect how learning takes place. Adoption of online technology as the best way to ensure learners in remote locations are not left out is also heavily affected by learning theories. The points put forward by learning theories can, therefore, improve the online learning experience.