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Online LearningResearch Proposal

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Online Learning

Theories of Online Learning -- a research framework

The Need for Education Theory

The Theories of Learning

Attributes of Learning

The Learner Centered approach

The Knowledge Centered approach

The Assessment Centered

Possible variations to the Theories

Online learning is a mode of education that is rapidly developing and gaining in popularity. It eliminates the distance factor in education and improves on the concept of distance learning with additional benefits of face-to-face interaction and virtual class rooms via the internet.

Even though the online learning process might seem to be a completely different in terms of teaching and learning theories, researches have shown that the basic principles of learning transcend mediums and can be applied for effective online education and learning. One of the present trends of online learning is the creation of virtual communities of students and teachers to enable effective teaching and learning process. Therefore the paper attempts to delve into the existing theories of education and learning and try to correlate them with the requirements for effective online learning (Phye, 1997).

The well-developed and established theories of learning are social constructivist, connectivism and transformative learning theories. Such theories comprise of components that have relevance to the building of communities through dialogue, discussion and reflecting. Such attributes help the learners to gain knowledge through deeper understanding of the subjects being taught (Mezirow, 1991).

The salience of online learning has increased rapidly in the past few years in higher education. This has necessitated skill development from instructors regarding ways to build online communities and a framework adequate for online teaching and learning in a way that is beneficial to students. While technology like video conferencing can be an aid to the online teaching process, teachers and instructors need to follow a basic framework that must be based on the foundation of the theories of learning yet adapted suitably to meet the demands and the needs of online students.

This has given rise to the necessity for the creation of efficient interactive learning environments for students who participate in online courses. The best methods of teaching needs to be understood and assimilated by the educators and instructors with the technology and the resources that is present at hand (Phye, 1997). The use of technology can increase the inclusiveness of community learning environments.

An atmosphere where the student and the teacher interact to construct a class culture and where the entire learning process essentially takes place in a community setting, the social constructivist theory can be useful. In the era of technological development, the speed at which knowledge is increasing is also growing exponentially. In the online environment for learning, the connectivism approach to learning can be useful for students and teachers alike to know how to find pertinent information. Akin with the development of online learning, is transformative learning theory that focuses on the reflective ability of learning process (Miller & Pound, 2011).

This research will attempt to identify a theoretical approach based on these basic models of learning in a way that an effective and efficient model can be developed for the benefit students of online courses. The paper would also examine the possible effects of the various learning theories on the students undertaking online courses and engaged in online learning.

The Need for Education Theory

According to Dills and Romiszowski, (1997), there are three major roles for a good educational theory relative online education. Education theory for online learning makes people aware of the ways that enhanced communication, information retrieval, and management capability of the internet can be taken advantage of by education. This provides people with a vision for the education type and nature. It is often seen that technologies are used without any sort of direction where new actions are tried to be formed based on old formats and contexts (Dills & Romiszowski, 1997).

The most effective usages of the limited time and the resources for online learning can be identified with educational theories. Often a good theory on education helps educators to make new permutations and combinations to create new strategies. The growing demand for education, especially online education, even with the existence of many opportunities, the dearth of adequate resources makes it most important that the resources be adequately and most effectively used (Dunkin, 2006). Wilson argues that good theories are generally build on knowledge that already exists in the public domain or what is already known. Such theories help people to prepare for the unknown. A good theory of online education ensures that the robust and considered online learning is possible.

The Theories of Learning

The Behaviorist School of Learning

For the quantitative approach and analysis of the topic, it is important to review the process and the effects on students of behaviorist approach to learning. This approach deals with the quantitative observation of a reaction to a stimulus while it ignores the thought process that goes on behind the reaction. This approach measures success of the learning process from the observed and measureable indicators that result out of learning (Letchworth & Good, 1990)

This approach, when viewed from the point-of-view of online students can be quite fruitful if certain measures are taken. Using this approach would mean quantitative evaluation of the students and hence the students need to be informed about the expected outcomes of learning process that allows them to set standards for themselves to achieve. There is also need to test learners to determine the level of achievement of the standards that the students have managed to achieve (Mitchell & Myles, 2004).

The essential requirement of following this approach to online learning would be to have provisions for online testing or other forms of testing and assessment. This assessment tool is necessary to meet the primary requirement of this approach-to check the learner's achievement level. This approach entails the sequencing of learning, one sequence followed by the other and interrelated to the previous one in a way that it seems to be a continuous model. This aspect of behavioral learning also needs to be incorporated into online format using this approach. This aspect of the approach allows students to have an idea of their progress and act on the feedback provided to correct themselves (Dunkin, 2006). This theory represents the evaluation of quantitative observation of results of students' development and hence would be useful in assessing the hypothesis.

Cognitivist School of Learning

The primary components of a cognitivist approach to learning include activities and process that happens inside the memory, thinking, reflection, abstraction, motivation, and metacognition. The approach of cognitivist learning is based on the assumption that a learner takes help of various types of memories during the learning process taking information from the memories and processing them to arrive at a conclusion. The processing is preceded by the receiving of sensations into the sensory store. In the sensory store the information lingers for a little less than a second. Such sensations get lost if they are not immediately transferred to the working memory (Kalat, 1993). Qualitatively, this theory of learning approach to online learning helps to understand the mental aspect of online learning and how such learning can benefit students' learning process.

This approach can be applied to the sphere of online learning. However there needs to be some adaptations to this to suit the needs of the online students. The learning materials for online students need to be such so that senses can be transferred from the sensory store to the working memory where the students can use the senses. The amount of attention paid to information that was incoming into the brain and the related cognitive structures that were present at that time decide on the amount of information senses going into the working memory. The cognitive framework helps the learners to process the information that gets transferred to the working memory of the brain.

The learning process should include pre-instructional strategies like advance organizers need to be included in case there is dearth of a cognitive structure (Ausubel, 1960). The quick processing of information in working memory is also necessary so that the analyzed information gets stored in the long-term memory to be recalled for use later on (Kalat, 1993). This is one of the draw backs of the approach and this approach needs to be adapted for online learners such that they are able to process the information very fast and efficiently. Therefore relevant cognitive measures need to be provided for the online students and online learners.

For online students, adequate strategies need to be included in the learning framework so that the information can be transferred to the working memory. The information is stored as senses and registered in the brain. Strategies that give rise to maximum sensation needs to be used for online students like the use of color, graphics, size of text, etc. The way such information is delivered, for example by audio, visuals, animations or video, would also be important for the online students to register information (Stephenson, 2001). According… [END OF PREVIEW]

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