Module 2: Reflection

The way we teach in the classroom can’t always translate on to the online space. It would make sense to adjust learning theories for the distance learning space. What exactly are those adjustments, and how does each learning theory look different when presented online? In today’s reflection we will explore this topic, focusing on the three behavior theories: Behaviorism, Cognitivism, and Constructivism using Mohamed Ally’s Foundations of Educational Theory for Online Learning. In Foundations of Educational Theory for Online Learning, Ally writes about the “Implications for Online Learning” for each learning theory. I, personally, really liked the style of writing for this chapter. It was awesome breakdown of what is the learning theory about, the implications of online learning, and visuals to pair with the information. Inspired by this outline method, I will be attempting the same style of writing.


“Behaviorism is a theory of learning which states all behaviors are learned through interaction with the environment through a process called conditioning” (Simply Psychology). In this theory, students essentially are a blank space. Learning is measured quantitatively through observable behavior. This is a theory often used on training animals.

There are two types of conditioning:

The “Implications for Online Learning” for Behaviorism are: clear expectations, explicit outcomes, testing, sequencing, and feedback.

I feel as though this theory could definitely translate online. Teachers could set clear expectations and outcomes ahead of time. You could use a variety of different methods to assess, sequence, and give feedback. Google classroom is great for assigning materials and even using Google Forms to make quizzes and tests to check for understanding. The feedback option for the platform is very easy to use and smart. For sequencing, I prefer Canvas over Google Classroom. If the teacher prepares ahead of time, there are a lot of tools and resources for this theory. It really rings true when Ally writes, “Early computer learning systems were designed based on a behaviorist approach to learning” (Source). The internet has a lot to offer when it comes to mediums and tools for this theory. The differences could be that assessing could be more informal and quicker in the classroom, but if the teacher finds that a quick email as an exit slip suffices for their assessment. Feedback is another point that could be different in the online space. Some work / behaviors don’t need a paragraph of written response, it could be a quick nod or smile. I think there are few ways where the classroom and online differ when it comes to behaviorism.


“Cognitivism is a learning theory that focuses on the processes involved in learning rather than on the observed behavior” (Source). It is a reaction to the previously mentioned theory, behaviorism. Cognitivists objected to the focus on the stimulus, and wanted to shift that focus to the important aspect of thinking. The learner is active in this process, not passive as in the behaviorism theory. “Cognitivists see learning as an internal process that involves memory, thinking, reflection, abstraction, motivation, and metacognition” (Ally).


The “Implications for Online Learning” for Cognitivism are: strategizing information placement, chunked information, learning styles, motivation, and application.

Though I’ve highlighted a few implications, there were quite a bit more that Ally wrote. This seems to be the theory that has the most implications for online learning. It does seem to be a tedious transition to the online space, but once again doable. I had never heard of the ARCS model (Attention, Relevance, Confidence, Satisfaction), but it makes sense.

  • Capture student’s attention to start the lesson
  • Keep the information presented relevant and talk about how students can benefit from this information
  • Design for success
  • Provide feedback and an opportunity to do a real life application with the information

If the teacher / presenter is mindful of the different methods of delivering material to different learning styles and provides as array of options, then I think this would translate to online learning just as well as in the classroom.


“Constructivism refers to the idea that learners construct knowledge for themselves, each learner individually (and socially) constructs meaning as he or she learns” (Exploratorium). The learner constructs their own knowledge through experiences and prior knowledge. Learners are seen as active participants rather than passive. Other theories see learners / students as empty vessels or blank spaces, constructivism seems learners as they are and takes into consideration prior knowledge, experiences, background, etc. It is all about making connections.


The “Implications for Online Learning” for Constructivism are: keeping learners active, constructing own knowledge, collaborative learning, and reflection.

Keeping learners active and collaborative may be difficult in the online space, but not impossible. In the classroom, it is much easier to keep learners active. The asynchronous nature of online learning leads students to being active whenever they choose, but that isn’t totally different from classroom presence, it just looks different. If you were meeting synchronously over BlueJeans, Zoom, Skype, Collaborate, it would be easier to facilitate that constant activity. These platforms would also make collaboration easier. Mediums like Zoom and Collaborate allow breakout rooms where students are grouped together for as assignment. They are essentially in their own part of the classroom working together, though they could be miles apart.

Constructing knowledge looks different in both spaces as well. Often times students / learners would be working with their hands or looking at examples. If prepared in advanced, these could all work in an online setting. There are unique technologies such as virtual field trips that can help a learner construct knowledge.

Overall Constructivism can be done online and done well, it just looks very different from the classroom.

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