Teaching and training has been going on for decades; however, the design methods and delivery technology have changed over the years. The invention of the Internet and the computer, especially the microcomputer and the availability of computer software, has revolutionized the design and delivery of instruction using online methods. Studies and analyses (Kulik, Kulik, & Shwalb, 1986; Lawson, 1999; Wesley, Krockover, & Hicks, 1985) have concluded that online learning is as effective, and in some cases, more effective than traditional classroom instruction; however, some researchers claim that it is the extra amount of time spent on the design that makes online learning more effective than classroom instruction rather than the technology (Allen, 2003; Clark, 1983, 2001; Kozma, 2001). This claim supports the idea that good instructional design is important for online materials.
Learning Theories For Design Of Online Learning Materials
Behaviorists claim learning is a change in observable behavior caused by external stimuli in the environment and that it is the observable behavior that indicates whether or not the learner has learned something—not what is going on in the learner’s head (Skinner, 1974). The early behaviorists influenced Pressley (1927) to develop the teaching machine, which moved the repetitiveness of teaching from the teachers to technology by using drill and practice as the instructional strategy.
The design of online learning material was also influenced by cognitive theory, which claims that learning involves the use of memory, motivation, metacognition, and thinking, and that reflection plays an important part in learning. Learning is considered to be an internal process, and the amount learned depends on the processing capacity of the learner, the amount of effort expended during the learning process, the depth of the processing (Craik & Lockhart, 1972), and the learner’s existing knowledge structure (Ausubel, 1974). Cognitive psychology looks at learning from an information processing point of view, where the learner uses different types of memory during learning. Sensations are received through the senses into the sensory store before processing occurs. Effective online learning materials must use strategies to allow learners to attend to the learning materials so that the information can be transferred from the senses to the sensory store and then to working memory. The amount of information transferred to working memory depends on the amount of attention that was paid to the incoming information and whether cognitive structures are in place to make sense of the information. Strategies that check whether learners have the appropriate existing cognitive structure to process the information must be used in online learning. If the relevant cognitive structure is not present, pre-instructional strategies, such as advance organizers, overviews, and concept maps, should be included as part of the learning process (Ally, 2004a; Ausubel, 1960).
Key Terms in this Chapter
Rapid Application Development: The use of a team of experts in a concentrated session to develop a product that meets the user requirements.
Metacognitive Skills: Learners’ individual skills to assess whether the learning strategies they are using are effective. Learners use their metacognitive skills to assess their level of achievement, determine alternate strategies, select the most appropriate strategy, and then re-assess the level of achievement.
Support: The use of synchronous and asynchronous technology by a tutor to interact with learners at a distance.
Instructional Design: A systematic approach for designing learning materials based on learning theories and research.
Online Learning: Use of the Internet to deliver instructions to students using a variety of instructional strategies to meet individual students’ needs.
Artificial Intelligence: The use of computer systems, software, and models to imitate human thought and reasoning when completing a task.
Intelligent Agent: A proactive computer system that is capable of flexible autonomous action in order to meet its design objectives as set out by the designer.
Behaviorism: Learning is seen as a change in behavior and learner behavior is explained in terms of external physical stimuli and responses rather than what the learner is thinking.
Cognitivism: It is concerned with what the learner is thinking in terms of processing information for storage and retrieval.
Constructivism: Knowledge is constructed by the learner through experiential learning and interactions with the environment and the learner’s personal workspace.