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13 E-learning theories

E-learning theories are not new theories, but rather e-enhancements of existing learning theories (Mayes and de Freitas, 2004).
They form “sets of beliefs: about the nature of knowledge and competence, about the purposes of learning, about how learning occurs, about how people should and should not be treated, etc” (Goodyear, 2001, p.51)
Consecutive learning theories don’t replace each other, but complement each other, each contributing its legacy to learning.  Theories can be considered as various levels of aggregation, with associative/behaviourist approaches addressing observable factors, cognitive approaches focusing on the ‘detailed structures and processes that underlie individual performance’ and situative approaches taking into account the social and cultural aspects of learning (Mayes and de Freitas, 2004).
Activity designs are usually a blend of different learning theories.  Being aware of the main learning theories helps building a consistent design and clarifying what type of learning and interaction is intended.
An example provided by Goodyear (2001): It is not uncommon to find some members of a team believing that learners are poor at  organizing themselves and learn best by being fed information in small amounts, while other members of the team want to promote active, student-managed learning.
 
The table below summarizes key concepts of different learning theories and their implications for online learning, taken from the publications from Anderson, Mayes and de Freitas and Goodyear.
Associative/ Behaviourist approaches
Design principles
Looking for observable behaviour
Explicitly mentioning course outcomes
Behavioural objectives
Ability to test achievement of learning outcomes
Instructional Systems Design (ISD)
Decomposing learning into small chunks
Routines of organised activity
Learning hierarchies (controversial!)
Sequencing learning materials with increasing complexity
Giving direct feedback on learning
Individualized learning trajectories
Cognitive psychology (constructivism)
Types of memory (sensory – short term – long term)
Maximize sensations: strategic screen layout
Research on memory, perception, reasoning, concept formation.
Maximize sensations: well-paced information
Learning is active
Maximize sensations: highlighting main elements
Learning is individual (knowledge construction)
Relate difficulty level to cognitive level of learner: providing links to easier and more advanced resources
Use of comparative advance organizers
Use of conceptual models
Importance of prior knowledge structures
Pre-instructional & prerequisite questions
Experimentation toward discovery of broad principles
Promote deep processing
Use of information maps zooming in/ out
Cognitive Apprenticeship (Brown et al, 1989)
Interactive environments for construction of understanding
Metacognition (reflection, self-regulation)
Relate to real-life (apply, analyse, synthesize)
Learning styles (controversial!)
Address various learning styles
Cognitive styles
Let students prepare a journal
Dual coding theory
Use both visual information and text
Motivate learners (ARCS model)
Use techniques to catch attention, explain relevance,  build confidence and increase satisfaction
Situated learning (constructivism)
Personal knowledge construction
Personal meaning to learning
Situated learning: motivation
Relate to real life (relevance)
Holistic/ Systemic approaches
Conduct research on internet
Build confidence with learners
Identity development
Use of first-hand information (not filtered by instructor)
Communities of Practice (Lave & Wenger)
Collaborative activities
Fostering the growth of learning communities
Learning as act of participation
Legitimate (peripheral) practice, apprenticeships
Lifelong learning
Authentic learning and assessment tasks
Connectivism
Information explosion
Digital literacies
Learning in network environment
Keep up-to-date in field
Knowledge base
Multi-channel learning
Distributed learning
Build diversity, openness in learning (different opinions), autonomy
Personal Learning Environment
self-directed learning, just-in-time
Some comments on the table:
1. It’s difficult to draw sharp lines between these theories.  Some authors distinguish between cognitive constructivism (based on the work from Piaget) and social-cultural constructivism (based on the work from Vygotsky).  The work of Vygotsky formed the basis for the anthropological work from Jean Lave and the concept of ‘communities of practice’. The work of Engeström on activity theory forms a bridge between situative learning (with the activity system, it takes a more social unit of analysis than the individual) and constructivist approaches.
2 .Constructivism doesn’t really fit into the overview.  Goodyear (2001, p.75) mentions the following description of constructivism:
“…learning is a constructive process in which the learner is building an internal representation of knowledge, a personal interpretation of experience. This representation is constantly open to change, its structure and linkages forming the foundation to which other knowledge structures are appended….this view of knowledge does not necessarily deny the existence of the real world..but contends that all we know of the world are human interpretations of our experience of the world….learning must be situated in a rich context, reflective of real world contexts…” In other words, constructivism states that knowledge is relative and is different for every user.  Learning, in this position, means actively building a personal and contextualised interpretation of experience.

Constructivism – Jonassen et al 1999

Social Constructions – Vygotsky 1986

Activity Theory – Engeström et al 1999

Experiational Learning – Kolb 1984

Instructional Design – Gagné et al 2004

Networked and collaborative work – McConnell 2000

Learning Design Jochems et al 2004

 

Primary: presenting information

Secondary: active learning and feedback

Tertiary: dialogue and new learning.

References
Goodyear, P. (2001) Effective networked learning in higher education: notes and guidelines, Networked Learning in Higher Education Project (JCALT), Lancaster, CSALT, Lancaster University, [online] Available from:http://www.csalt.lancs.ac.uk/jisc/guidelines_final.doc(Accessed 28 May 2012)
Anderson, T. (ed.) (2008) The Theory and Practice of Online Learning, 2nd ed. Athabasca University Press.
Mayes, T. and de Freitas, S. (2004) Review of e-learning theories, frameworks and models, Bristol, The Joint Information Systems Committee, [online] Available from:http://www.jisc.ac.uk/uploaded_documents/Stage%202%20Learning%20Models%20%28Version%201%29.pdf(Accessed 28 May 2012).

70,000 years ago we were getting something right in relation to learning and responding to circumstances and left Africa.

We have been learning in communities ever since.

Perhaps population pressures or stability permitted reading and our inexorable desire to innovate led to the printing press and more since besides. Meanwhile populations and civilizations grew and society required or permitted the development of formal learning.

For me all the learning theories are observations of human behaviour as individuals or in groups.

Open learning is if anything taking us back to learning on the fly, in more vibrant less formal communities online. A response to the necessity of educating 7 billion and solving many of the human created problems on this dot in space called Earth.

I rather think the theories come AFTER the event to philosophise over what is taking place – in a commercial and entrepreneurial world you get on with it.

Take virtual worlds – they are commercial gaming and entertainment environments which educators would like to use and as they use them explain, position and justify.

  • All I want to know is, does it work?
  • Is it affordable?
  • Is it scaleable?
  • Is it going anywhere?
  • If not ditch it snd try something else.

 

Timelines, theories and technologies

This is a learning dilemma that will become increasingly prevalent. You have a stinker of a complex mass of resources and cobbled together ideas to compile into some kind of order only to find that it has been done for you. This is an activity of how understandings of the process of learning has changed over time.

On of our tutors offers a helping hand:

 

Take your time reading this through and then consider how these historical changes might affect

  • the development of educational technologies
  • ethical considerations in e-learning research
  • research in your own discipline.

There’s quite a lot in there. If you want to start just responding to one of the bullet points above, that’s fine.

When these modules are designed is proper consideration really given to the students? Who they are? There levels of commitment and understanding? For all the personas I’m familiar with I do wonder.

And that’s not even the start of it. We are then asked to look back at week 3 (a month ago), and look for relationships and connections between the narrative we create (above). Then, as if this isn’t enough we need to rope in last weeks ethical considerations, and while we’re at at put in the ‘wider political and social changes’.

Already we have, in my estimation (and this is my sixth postgraduate module and the fifth in the MAODE series) a good 16 hours work to do.

But there’s more:

‘Consider how the subject you studied for your undergraduate degree has changed over time’.

Post your answers in your tutor group forum and compare them with others.

Across the five groups I think, so far two, sometimes three people, have given this a go. Each could write a chapter in a book (one nearly has)

2 Hours have been allocated to the task.

I repeatedly find that whatever time is given as a suggested requirement for a week’s activities that you need to add 50%. So 14 hours becomes 21.

Like a junior solicitor I’ve been keeping tabs on how long everything takes – and this is someone who is by now, evidentially, digitally literate and familiar with the OU VLE. If you can find 21 hours great. If not then what? If you can handle getting behind or strategically leaving gaps that’s fine, but if you feel obliged to get you money’s worth and want to do it all then what? And of course life goes on around you: kids off school, elderly relations fall ill, the workload ebbs and flows, the car breaks down … your Internet connection becomes about as vibrant as a mangle and it snows a bit.

A simple guide to four complex learning theories

http://edudemic.com/2012/12/a-simple-guide-to-4-complex-learning-theories/

I came across this from edudemic and can’t think of anything clearer.

The discussion offers some further thoughts, deleting the word ‘traditional’ and replacing with classical.

The ifs and buts of the people associated with each of these and how absolute any of them can be, especially connectivism. However, I see connectivism not as the end of a chronological chain, but rather a loop that has people connected and learning in their family, extended family and community. And the one component that has not changed a jot? The way the human brain is constructed during foetal development and the unique person who then emerges into any of some hundreds of thousands of different circumstances and from way they may or may not develop ‘their full potential’. Though I hazard a guess that this will always remain impossible to achieve. 98 billion neurons take a lot of connecting. It starts at around 4 months after conception and only ends with death – death being after the vital physiological supports have collapsed and like the self-destructing tape in Mission Impossible ‘all is lost’.


The infographic runs to and 12 rows. This is the last row. The rest you ought to see for yourselves.

Copyright 2013 © Edudemic 

Powered by coffee, and a love all things education technology.

Simplistically the technologies I can add across this chronology are:

Books – Learning by rote > Literacy (writing, paper) – but then the Oxbridge Tutorial goes back over 750 years and that was and still is ‘Constructivism’ before someone came along 700 years later and gave it a name.

I’m reminded of the aphorism from Philip Larkin, ‘Sex started in the Sixities’ – about the same time as constructive learning. As for ‘connectivism’ what happens in a market, what has happened at religious gathering for millennia? Why do clever people have to come along and say these things have never happened before? Connectivism = discussions. Perhaps we’d be better off NOT writing it down, by going and finding people. I spoke to a Consultant the other week who for all the technology and e-learning swears by the conference. And for how many millennia have ‘experts’ like-minds and the interested (and powerful/influential) had such opportunities to gather.

In 1999 my very first blog post was titled ‘what’s new about new media, not much’.

Whenever I read it I feel the sentiment is the same – as people we have not changed one jot. Just because everyone has a ‘university in their pocket’ – if they are some of the few hundred million out of the 7 billion on the planet who have a Smart Phone or iPad does not change the fundamentals of what we are and the connectedness of our brains.

 

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