Educational Theory for Online Learning



  1. Online learning is convenient and flexible.  It allows the learner to learn from anywhere at any time. Learners have access to up-to-date learning materials and have the ability to communicate with experts in the field they are studying.  A well designed online learning environment will engage the learner and promote learning.   In chapter 1 of Foundations of Educational Theory for Online Learning, Mohamed Ally suggests that an effective learning environment must include properly designed activities and have instructor support. 
  2. Ally states, "The development of effective online learning materials should be based on proven and sound learning theories." In order to develop effective learning activities, the designer of an online learning activity must consider how learning is achieved.    The principles of each learning theory, (behaviorism, cognitive, and constructivism) can be combined and incorporated to achieve a well designed online learning activity.

  3. Behaviorist strategies can be used to teach the facts, or the what.  Cognitive strategies can be used to teach the how, processes and principles. Constructivist strategies can be used to teach the why, applying the learning.  

    Ally presents a 4 node model for designing learning materials. The model begins with 1) pre-learning activities to help prepare the learner for the lesson. 2) Learning activities that are varied to meet the diverse learning styles of learners. 3) Learning interactions with online materials, other online learners, and the instructor/expert. 4)Finally, the model concludes with an opportunity to apply the knowledge presented in the online lesson to a real-life application.
  4. In the article below, the Academic Technology Center of Worcester Polytechnic Institute highlights the importance of designing online learning environments that promote interaction. Strategies to enhance the three main types of interaction of online learning: learner to content, learner to learner, and learner to instructor are presented.
  5. Students must be motivated to learn. The content must be meaningful and relevant for them. Here are ideas for engaging online students.
  6. Creatively Engaging Online Students: Models & Activities