674 EQ: How do learning theories manifest themselves in online courses?

674 EQ: How do learning theories manifest themselves in online courses?

Because online courses lack the face-to-face interaction, the learning theory does have to be modified to fit the environment. I do not believe that the actual curriculum needs to be changed, but rather the mode of how the lesson plans are delivered.

For a math class learning about Algebra will still use the same examples, slide show, and worksheets. However, instead of the teacher using the smart board to show the math examples in her traditional classroom setting, she will place the examples in a Powerpoint presentation to show the online class. Although online classes can be asynchronous, the different learning theories can still be utilized in the planning of the lesson plans. The theories we talked about this week are:

  • Behaviorist Learning Theory
  • Cognitivist Learning Theory
  • Constructivist Learning Theory

Behaviorism is a learning theory that only focuses on objectively observable behaviors and discounts any independent activities of the mind. Behavior theorists define learning as nothing more than the acquisition of new behavior based on environmental conditions” (funderstanding.com, 2011).

The Classical conditioning example, where Pavlovs’ dog experiment is probably the most used theory in my home. We have tried to condition our dog to use a bell to go outside, not just for food. Of course with young children, we use the reward and punishment technique as well.


Of course the rat in this picture, like Pavlovs’ dog, has been conditioned to do an act (push the lever) and then he will get a reward (food).

Cognitive Learning Theory is a broad theory that explains thinking and differing mental processes and how they are influenced by internal and external factors in order to produce learning in individuals” (AlleyDog, 2016).

Cognitivism is also known as cognitive development. Cognitivism involves examining learning, memory, problem solving skills, and intelligence. The underlying concepts of cognitivism involves the way we think and gain knowledge. Cognitivism learning is a way to understand how problem solving changes throughout childhood, how cultural differences and environment affect the way we view our own academic achievements and language development.

At my house, my kids use many cognitive websites to sharpen their skills such as:

  • ABCMouse
  • PBSKids
  • RazKids
  • StarFall

Constructivism is a learning theory found in psychology which explains how people might acquire knowledge and learn. It therefore has direct application to education. The theory suggests that humans construct knowledge and meaning from their experiences” (University of Sydney, 2016).

Refers to both a learning theory (how people learn) and to an epistemology of learning (what is the nature of knowledge). Constructivist theory posits that people construct their own understanding and knowledge of the world through experiencing the world, and reflecting on those experiences.

Which aspects fits best with the current research into what works in online teaching and learning?

I think that all three theories have a place in the classroom. Behaviorist Learning Theory would be best in a more traditional setting where the instructor and students can have the personal interaction. Cognitive Learning Theory I think would be best for younger or inexperienced students. Although I can see where this framework can be helpful with older students as well.  Constructivist Learning Theory seems like a new way of looking at learning. Rather than telling a student how to digest a lesson plan, it allows the student to grasp the topic in way that he can comprehend.

What theory best represents your own philosophy of the way people learn?

Because I am such a logical thinker, I identify closest to the Cognitivist Theory

Input > Mind as Computer > Output theory

My opinion is that we learn from a mix of the theories. I have subjects that I am just able to pick up without studying, then there are the math classes. My dyslexia kicks in and I have to learn in a different method than English or History. I think that people are complex and our way of learning new things can be just as unique as us.



Harasim, Linda. (2011). Learning Theory and Online Technologies.

Behaviorism. (2011, April 11). Retrieved September 14, 2016, from http://www.funderstanding.com/theory/behaviorism/

AlleyDog. (2016). Cognitive Learning Theory. Retrieved September 14, 2016, from http://www.alleydog.com/glossary/definition.php?term=Cognitive%20Learning%20Theory

The University of Sydney. (2016, March 23). Constructivist. Retrieved September 14, 2016, from http://sydney.edu.au/education_social_work/learning_teaching/ict/theory/constructivism.shtml


4 thoughts on “674 EQ: How do learning theories manifest themselves in online courses?

  1. gkkapatak01 says:

    Josie, I like your response on how all three theories manifest themselves through online education. I agree that behaviorism would be more useful in a traditional classroom than in an online classroom because it’s based on what is observable. For me, being a costructivist teacher is what I strive to be, but I think to be an effective teacher, I have to apply all three theories (especially with the grade levels that I teach k-1).


  2. Teresa says:


    I agree that learning theories definitely have to be modified to fit the environment in distance education. You mentioned that “I do not believe that the actual curriculum needs to be changed, but rather the mode of how the lesson plans are delivered.” I’m not so sure about that. I think the instructor figures out objectives for the course, which instructors do in face-to-face instruction, then figures out how students can best meet those objectives. Sometimes, depending on the course, this will differ from face-to-face instruction and sometimes they won’t. For example, we read about the many courses and students taking courses in the medical field. I’ve taken courses in college in the science field which require labs. In these online classes labs are not an option, so the curriculum would need to be adjusted to fit the situation.

    I think you put it perfectly in the end when you said people are complex and our way of learning new things can be just as unique. Some things I like listening to and I learn that way. Sometimes I need to look at something or actually doing it is needed for learning and understanding.



  3. dlmarshallblog says:

    Josie, when you wrote, “Rather than telling a student how to digest a lesson plan, it allows the student to grasp the topic in way that he can comprehend,” I believe that you lit on the actual practicality of the online experience and the validity of the online experience as a vehicle for higher level thinking.


  4. Mariah Smith says:


    Thank you for pointing out that the different subjects might need different learning theories. I agree with this and see it through out my day because I teach both mathematics and French. My brain that I put on in math class is very much a cognitivist theory approach versus my French class we dive in to circumstances where the students need to learn on their own on how to respond to a situation, constructivism theory.

    Do you think that the constructivism theory needs to be working with older and mature students? I think so because there is more of a responsibility in this learning style for the students. If the teacher is not right near to encourage, learning could be difficult.

    Thank you for your input!


    Liked by 1 person

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