Manifesting Theories

How do learning theories manifest themselves in online courses?

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

During the 1990s, we had an early model Apple computer which our children used for Math Blaster.  The instructional design aspect of this game with math pedagogy was based on cognitivist learning theory.  The focus of Math Blaster took into account what goes on in the mind of the person engaging in the game activity, between the stimulus (the math problem and purpose for solving it) and the response (the answer and the reward for certain numbers of correct answers within a set time limit).  The reward was to play a game (a rocket/spaceship game)—this part of the game was behaviorism.

According to constructivist learning theory with an emphasis on Piaget’s four stages of development, current day online experiences would need to take into account the age range of the student as it coordinates to preoperational and concrete operational stages.  This theory limits blogging about an issue to a formal operational stage of 12+ years (Harasim, 2012).  But I think students could begin talking about a book they read much earlier.  There is software that transcribes speaking into typing where the student could talk about characters in the book and even make a prediction at a the preoperational stage, but closer to the end of the stage in first grade.  Some kids at around 6 or 7 years can learn that others have a different point of view about a book.  Is there a drawing feature on blogs?  They could draw pictures about the book online or scan a drawing in to upload.

In one article, I read about student-generated podcasts.  Students produce a podcast as an active learning participant.  Students “conduct research and formulate the concepts/ideas which comprise the podcast content” (Ng’ambi & Lombe, 2012, 185).  Students report back from a group task by recording it and uploading it into a learning management system (LMS).  Another optional use of podcasts is for supplemental course content.  However, the first use lends itself to construct ion of knowledge, because the student builds on prior knowledge through research, then shares with other students.  From this point, the students can discuss the content of their podcast through a blog.

In another article, a web-based tututoring system called Online Peer-Assisted Learning (OPAL) was set up for students from a very large class to communicate on and off campus (Evans & Moore, 2011).  Tutors were selected for the class and placed into gated pools according to results from prior lessons they had done well in.  Students who want help, get a ticket for being tutored through the internet:  e-mail, Skype, Google Docs or other.  If this takes place through something like Skype, students are engaging with each other where one is learning from someone who is slightly higher than their own skill level.  This is beneficial to both students.  This type of learning is based on Vygotsky’s zone of proximal development (ZPD) from which constructivist learning has some of its roots.

In a third article, Web 2.0 sites allow students to interact rather than passively view (such as in podcasts).  Constructivist learning takes place by encouraging students to challenge and support each other.  Web 2.0 has a user-centered design.  When students actively contribute such as on web conferencing, they learn from each other as they would in a face-to-face environment.  One idea is called social book marking where saved bookmarks may be tagged with keywords for storing, classifying, and sharing search links (Paily, 2013).   I’ve heard of this, and can definitely see the potential for sharing in a research project, though have not used this before.  This type of sharing is definitely a way to collaborate socially to see what someone else has found that may be different from their ideas for pursuing research on the same topic.  This is very constructivist.


Evans, M. J. and Moore, J. S. (2011).  Peer tutoring with the aid of the

Internet.  British Journal of Educational Technology, 44(1),


Harasim, L. (2012).  Learning theory and online technologies.  New York,

NY:  Taylor & Francis Group, Routledge.

Ng’ambi, D. & Lombe, A. (2011).  Using podcasting to facilitate student

learning:  A constructivist perspective.  Educational Technology &

 Society, 15(4), 181-192.

Paily, M. U. (2013).  Creating constructivist learning environment:  Role

of “web 2.0 technology.  International forum of teaching studies,



3 thoughts on “Manifesting Theories

  1. jcrocker2

    Regarding your comment about blogging and 12+:
    I think that students think more deeply at an early age than we give them credit for. I think we’ve all heard some surprising and incredibly insightful things come out of the mind of an elementary student (and some students are just like that on a regular basis).
    There are a lot of great ideas here, and some things I’ve never tried before (i.e. social bookmarking). I’m wondering if we’ll be able to incorporate any of them into a credit recovery English class. I hope so.

  2. tvanwyhe66

    Hi, Aleta…

    Your section on the Online Peer-Assisted Learning and the article by Evans and Moore is interesting — one I’ll definitely check out! The concept they describe is certainly one that could be game-changer were it become more wide-spread in education — where students are assigned to the types of support/tutoring lessons they previously performed well in. If something worked, do it again! (As opposed to what so often happens in tutoring and remedial instruction — when the same strategy is used again and again, even after it has failed to result in student learning.

    The OPAL approach sounds like it really “gets” what it means to differentiate and tailor learning for individual students… but it could also have a major impact on the students who serve as tutors! Anyone with a competitive bone in their body would want their tutoring sessions/lessons to be successful, and if a student were to be a “top tutor” because of their approaches to helping peers work, it MUST serve as an incentive to continue to refine their strategies and ways they interact with peers.

    What if this strategy were used in classrooms? Wow…controversial, no doubt…but just think what a bit of competition could do to the use of effective teaching strategies and continuous growth with the sincere desire to improve teacher effectiveness…and student learning, as a result? This already occurs in online learning, as there is enough privatization in vendor options (virtual academies that provide courseware and instructors) that my district is constantly in conversation with the providers we work with. They want to know how they can improve, what they can do differently to improve our experience from the school/district side, and what our students think. Our students get it, too. Some of them have now taken several online classes from different vendors, and they not only choosing the classes they want, but the delivery platforms/vendors that work for them.

    Interesting times in education!


  3. nfuerst01

    I like that you mentioned different ways students podcast. I’m curious if your research said anything about the difference in quality between having a “real world” audience from their blogs vs. just uploading a podcast to an LMS. I often wonder about that, given I’ve done it both ways and experienced mixed results.


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