Developing an online learning environment is not easy because it takes a lot of thought and planning to make sure the learners in the course reach the learning goals and objectives offered. Applying an instructional design strategy can help you build the course with content, activities, and assessments that engage the learners and enhance the learning process as well. Part of the design process is integrating theories of learning that best support online learning environments. Learning theories such as congnitivism, constructivism, and connectivism are good theories to model when designing online courses for higher education, continuing education, or professional development.
According to Bates (2015), congnitivism focuses on the mental processes that are considered essential for human learning. This means when we get new information we process it by measuring up to our previous knowledge. Bloom’s taxonomy is based on this theory where the cognitive domain is made up of levels of thinking which include: remembering, understanding, applying, analyzing, evaluating, and creating. The idea is that the learner moves through the process from understanding to eventually creating as knowledge develops. This way, the learner is actively taking a part in the learning process, while changing and updating the knowledge they already have. (Dabbagh, 2016). Constructivism is somewhat similar in that knowledge is processed cognitively and it is constructed not acquired (Bates, 2015). Constructivisms represent more of a social process to learning and understanding through social interaction supported by reflection, analysis, discussion and relationships. Connectivism is consists of a web of connections and the flow of information across them. Knowledge is attained by forming, cultivation, and maintaining connections for continual learning where the knowledge is kept up to date. Connections are made and maintained as needed.
In the instructional design process, it is important to consider that students have different learning styles. Therefore, it is a good strategy to use a combination of learning theories in order to better personalize the learning experience for the students. My course, Blended Learning in a Nutshell, was developed with a combination of these so that the learners could engage with the content and each other while participating in authentic tasks that were meaningful to them.
Throughout my course development, I have referenced my Understanding by Design’s (UbD) Backward Design (see the original blog post UbD) that outlines the desired results, assessment evidence, and learning plan. Advances in technology have changed the way we learn. As educators, it is important to bring up to date our role in the classroom and the teaching methods we use in order to provide students with the skills and knowledge they need in order to be successful in this technology-filled, digital world. Content and activities that are structured in an online learning environment, whether fully online or blended into face-to-face classes, helps us tap into the wealth of knowledge and rich media content available through online technologies and the Internet. Lastly, online learning environments give the instructor the ability to transform their traditional role as a deliverer of content into a facilitator of learning that fosters peer-to-peer learning and knowledge building.
Overall, studying instructional design for online learning has taught me that online courses and online learning environments can be developed for significant learning to take place. Furthermore, I have learned that no matter how well your course comes together it is always a “work in progress”. Online courses will need to be appraised; revised and updated constantly as time goes on. I believe that student and peer-to-peer feedback are essential for continuous improvement. In closing, the critical need for instructional design in online learning in the 21st century and beyond is irrefutable.
Bates, A.W. (2015). Teaching in a digital age: Guidelines for designing teaching and learning. Retrieved from https://opentextbc.ca/teachinginadigitalage/
Dabbagh, N. (2016, Nov. 02). The Instructional Design Knowledge Base. Retrieved November, 2, 2016 from Nada Dabbagh’s Homepage, George Mason University, Instructional Technology Program.