Online Course Construction

Teachers and designers are still determining what makes an effective online course. For successful eLearning experiences, it is vital that learning theorists, instructors, and designers work together to find grounded designs for online learning. 

The development of online courses is often built on a constructivist learning theory, which theory is to provide opportunities for students to build on previous experiences and knowledge (Koohang &  Palisszkiewicz, 2013).  Collaboration also plays a role in building this knowledge, as instructors and students interact to share ideas and experiences. While this is a theory for learning, it can be applied to the process of designing the course as well. The instructor of a Psychology online course explained that while he was the face of the course, it was actually constructed by the college’s chief technologist, the educational technologist, the student assistant, and himself -- the professor (Welkowitz, 2013). He explained, "the course is not so much ‘taught’ but instead ‘constructed’ by a team of verymotivated and bright people." (Welkowitz, 2013, p. 1). The course was constructed by pooling the knowledge and expertise of a group of people, who collaborated not only in the initial design, but throughout the course to make it work (Welkowitz, 2013). This professor was well aware of the change from being the sole provider of learning to a class, to being on a team that assembled material. In his introductory video, he described himself as more the "guide on the side" than the "sage on the stage" (Welkowitz, 2013) For this course, they used open courseware lectures from Yale (Paul Bloom's Psychology course), an open source textbook, as well as their own materials. Welkowitz (2013) likened the construction of the online course to a Joseph Cornell Art Box, which is a collection of materials to make a whole, each item adding to the final piece of artwork. 

An online course designed by a team may encourage collaborative constructivist learning in that they set an example and instill a feeling of learning from each other. This type of building and learning enables students and professors to reach higher ground more quickly than if tackled alone. 

Course designers must implement instructional strategies based on research and theory (Hirumi, 2011). There are many theoretical orientations  -- behavioral, cognitive, neurobiological, constructivist -- that may be used as the basis for designing strategies and applying instructional techniques (Hirumi, 2011). Each learning module should consist of instructional events that use a strategy to increase learner interactions that promote the desired learning outcome (Hirumi, 2011). 

Hirumi, 2012

Hirumi, 2012

Experience from students and teachers while taking or teaching an online course provides empirical data that can form new strategies for learning. Through active learning, knowledge is constructed with three stages:  the underpinning stage, ownership stage, and the engagement stage (Koohang & Paliszkiewicz, 2013). All three must be part of the online learning activities for the construction of knowledge (Koohang & Paliszkiewicz, 2013). 

The change in learning brought about by technology will require traditional educators to apply transformational learning to their own beliefs and prior knowledge about how a class should be taught. Instead of the students having to reflect on their own set ideas, instructors must now question and reflect on their own beliefs about learning and why they may need to formulate new frames of reference. Often, professors encourage college students to question their underlying beliefs and assumptions and to see the world through a new lens. But now we must ask the professors to apply this same line of reasoning to their established beliefs about lecturing and teaching. (Baran, Correia, & Thompson, 2011). Online teachers must utilize the tools of reflective learning and not become stagnant in their online teaching. In this way, the dynamic nature of online learning is ensured to continually adjust to the needs of students and reflect effective pedagogy. In fact, it would be advisable for instructors to continually take online courses as students to better understand the changing environment of online teaching. 

Think of online course construction as an aggregate of learning tasks and specialists in their fields. Students may choose courses less on the assessments of the professor and more on the whole delivery and experience of the online class. The collaborative nature of constructive theory can enable professionals to come together to provide a dynamic interface of learning between students and instructors. 

Since the field of online learning is growing, and theories of learning are still being evaluated, it is even more important to collaborate when constructing online courses. It is much like the medical profession, where research and practice has become so specialized, several doctors must come together to solve problems and find solutions. In the field of cognitive psychology, there is conflict about the use of memory research to influence pedagogy (Miller, 2011). However, using evidence-based methods in constructing courses is appropriate and needful in the current move to online teaching. According to Miller (2011) instructors in higher education can employ four essential principles based on current cognitive research when designing courses: 

(1)  Short-term memory (like memorizing a phone number) should not be a major concern when because it plays a small role in real life tasks.

(2)  Working memory must be addressed, as it is applicable to life, and there are limitations as to how much information a student can juggle at one time. There are limits to cognitive capacity. 

(3) Attention is paramount for memory. A course needs to be designed to capture and hold the students attention. The students willingness to learn and ability to focus are intertwined in this principle. Therefore, courses should have a variety of learning activities as a means to promote attention and engagement. This is to keep attention across a broad spectrum of learners -- not to match learning styles, which is no longer trending among cognitive researchers.

(4)  Frequent testing is central to memory retention. Learners need to engage with material frequently and be required to retrieve that material from memory.

There are pedagogical applications for current research on understanding the importance of cues in memory (Miller, 2011).  While it is advised to structure modules of learning into "chunks" of materials to help students retain information and avoid cognitive overload, new research has found that the limiting factor may not be storage capacity but the ability to locate the information in your mind (Miller, 2011).  "Cues" seem to play a role in the retrieval process, and more cues get formed when "students study material over short, spaced periods, and in a variety of contexts, rather than in concentrated sessions." (Miller, 2011).  In fact, the common advice for students to set-up one study area is not as conducive to retaining material as when that material is studied in a variety of contexts, providing numerous cues for recall (Miller, 2011). When constructing modules for learning, designers should provide multiple opportunities for students to develop "cues", spreading the material over various sensory elements and timeframes. For example, in the online Psychology course offered from Keene University via Canvas, the material the modules were available to read, listen, and watch. Short quizzes were embedded to help retain information, thereby meeting the stipulations of cognitive learning theory (Miller, 2011). 

Even though there was some rigidness to this course, due to the nature of the subject and the option for 4 units of university credit, the transactional distance did not decrease (Giossos, Koutsouba, Lionarakis, & Skavantzos, 2009). This may have been attributed to the connected feeling via discussion boards and when the professor introduced the course with this opening video:

In another online course, connectivism learning theory was encouraged by setting up missions, challenges, activities, and events. This was a course in online cheating and the first module contained readings and discussions addressing the driving question: What is cheating? and the Outcome: Define Cheating (Cheating, 2013).  After the readings, students were encouraged to participate in some of the activities,  with the goal to help them grow, learn, and connect with others (Cheating, 2013). One of the options was to share anonymously a time when they cheated, using the new vocabulary from the readings. At the end of the course learners (comprised mainly of online instructors) connected as they shared how they were implementing the document checker, Turnitin (Cheating, 2013). This gave them a forum to analyze constructivist learning theories within their own courses, as they looked at the options of using the plagiarism checker as a method for students to re-write their papers and learn from their mistakes, or to use it as "scare tactic" to discourage cheating. The course was led by an instructor that had introduced himself as more of a "tour guide" for the course, and the course as a "scripted journey" to be shared (Cheating, 2013).


Baran, E., Correia, A., & Thompson, A. (2011). Transforming online teaching practice: Critical analysis of the literature on the roles and competencies of online teachers. Distance Education, 32(3), 421-439. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eric&AN=EJ953014&site=eds-live; http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/01587919.2011.610293

Giossos, Y., Koutsouba, M., Lionarakis, A., & Skavantzos, K. (229). Reconsidering Mooroe's transactional distance theory. European Journal of Open distance and ELearning. 2, 1-6. Retrieved from http://www.eurodl.org/?article=374

Hirumi, A. (2012). The design and sequencing of online and blended learning interactions: A framework for grounded design. Canadian Learning Journal, 16(2), 21-25. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=bth&AN=79461798&site=eds-live

Koohang, A., & Palisszkiewicz, J. (2013). Knowledge construction in E-learning: An empirical validation of an active learning model. Journal of Computer Information Systems, 53(3), 109-114. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=bth&AN=87725944&site=eds-live

Miller, M. D. (2011). What college teachers should know about memory: A perspective from cognitive psychology. College Teaching, 59(3), 117-122. doi:10.1080/87567555.2011.580636

Wang, V. C. X. 1., vcxwang@gmail.com. (2012). Understanding and promoting learning theories. International Forum of Teaching & Studies, 8(2), 5-11. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=ofs&AN=82187857&site=eds-live

Welkowitze, L. (2013). Asperger’s Conversations:  Thoughts about Autism, Research, Education Retrieved from http://welkowitz.typepad.com/aspergers_conversations/2013/06/joseph-cornell-and-the-mooc-massive-open-source-online-course.html

Cheating in Online Courses. Canvas.net  Retrieved from https://learn.canvas.net/courses/28


Online Course Evaluations

Student feedback may be an important tool to improve online learning (Crews & Curtis, 2011). MIT's online subject evaluation uses student feedback to assist instructors, departments, and students (MIT, 2013). Instructors can use this information to improve content and andragogy of their courses; departments to track accreditation, faculty, and curriculum; and students to select courses (MIT, 2013).

However, not all schools or courses get a high return rate of student evaluations (Guder & Mallarius, 2013). Students do not believe that their responses contribute to changes in courses or instructors (Anderson, Brown, & Spaeth, 2006). When students believe that their ratings will affect decisions about faculty and courses, there is a higher response rate (Crews & Curtis, 2011). Guder & Mallarius (2013) found that when instructors encouraged students at both the undergraduate and graduate level, they received a higher number of returned course evaluations at the end of the term. Reminders sent to students in the form of email also prompted a higher rate of returns. Students seemed to prefer a questionnaire that was not too lengthy or time-consuming (Guder & Mallarius, 2013). However, another study found that the length of the online evaluation did not matter (Johnson, 2002 in Crews & Curtis, 2011).

Faculty are often evaluated for tenure and promotion through the use of student course evaluations and therefore, they have an interest in the results (Crews & Curtis, 2011). However, some instructors feel that they may be slighted with online student evaluations that are available outside of the universities, (such as http://ratemyprofessor.com) and may even feel compelled to give higher grades for a better score (Crews & Curtis, 2011). From my perspective, I have found the outside ratings to be helpful and fair in analyzing an instructor. The one or two bad comments will greatly outweigh the good, and often there is information that determines the quality of the teaching.

It was noted by Mansfield (2003) in Crews & Curtis (2011) that course evaluations "undermine the authority of professors...[making] them accountable to student on the basis of needing to please them, like businesses pleasing customers or elected officials pleasing voters." (p. 867). This viewpoint of teachers seems to be in direct conflict with theories of learning that support constructivism and collaborativism and appear to be more in line with older, more passive learning theories. Students are consumers and universities and instructors are in a competitive market. Competition is seen as improving businesses, and can have the same effect in education. Students and instructors understand the occasional negative evaluation and both are capable of looking at the average response as an indicator of quality. Even though evaluations may be used by universities to increase pay, the better reason should be to increase learning. Instructors can provide opportunities for ongoing formative feedback from students during the course which indicates an interest by the teacher to collaborate learning (Crew & Curtis, 2011). Courses can be re-evaluated as to how they are meeting the needs of the students and learning theories can be analyzed.

It is recommended from the study of Crew & Curtis (2011) that instructors provide incentives to their students for completing online course evaluations to get a higher number of returns. This can be in the form of email reminders and stressing the importance for course improvement. While some universities withhold the final grade until the student completes an evaluation, this type of incentive needs to be further researched (Crew & Curtis, 2011).

Students perceive a higher level of teaching effectiveness when teachers stimulate learning (Jones, 2012).  This would be a valuable question to ask in a course evaluation, especially if done during the course and not just at the end. Students also see the value of online instructor evaluations to help them match their learning preferences with an instructor's teaching methods (Luo, 2009). If a teacher uses powerpoint only, lecture only, or textbook formulated tests, all this can be matched to a students preference for learning.

Not all instructors utilize the information collected in evaluations to improve teaching, which supports some of the concerns from students for taking the time to fill out course evaluations (Jones, 2012). However, for the instructors who enjoy teaching and applying learning theory to achieve results and satisfaction in stimulating learning, the course evaluation can be valuable. Students' feedback in the form of evaluation has the potential to increase the collaborative influence in constructivist learning theories. The fact that it is easier to connect with students through email and other asynchronous modes should enable this outlook and improve learning.

Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey , the world's leading questionnaire tool.

Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey , the world's leading questionnaire tool.


Anderson, J., G. Brown, and S. Spaeth, (2006). Online Student Evaluations and Response Rates
Reconsidered. Innovate 2 (6).

Crews, T. & Curis, D. (2011). Online course evaluations: Faculty perspective and strategies for improved response rates. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 36(7), 867-878.

Donovan, J., Mader, C., & Shinsky, J. (2010). Constructive student feedback: Online vs. traditional course evaluations. Journal of Interactive Online Learning, 9(3), 283-296.

Guder, F., & Malliaris, M. (2013). Online course evaluations response rates. American Journal of Business Education, 6(3), 333-337. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=ehh&AN=87531226&site=eds-live

Jones, S. J. (2012). Reading between the lines of online course evaluations: Identifiable actions that improve student perceptions of teaching effectiveness and course value. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 16(1), 49-58. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eric&AN=EJ971039&site=eds-live; http://sloanconsortium.org/jaln/v16n1/reading-between-lines-online-course-evaluations-identifiable-actions-improve-student-perc

Luo, V. (2009). USC needs to put course evaluations online. Daily Trojan. November 23, 2009. Retrieved from http://dailytrojan.com/2009/11/23/usc-needs-to-put-course-evaluations-online/

MIT Online Subject Evaluations. (2013). Retrieved from: http://web.mit.edu/subjectevaluation/


Effective Feedback Methods for Online Teachers

Students and instructors are influencing education as they enroll in and teach online courses. We are seeing successes with online learning, but the methods are continually being evaluated to provide sound learning based on pedagogical and andragogical learning theories. Students indicate that teacher feedback is one of the important aspects to successful eLearning (Getzalf, Perry, Toffner, Lamarche, & Edwards, 2009). As teacher-student interaction is online, it requires further investigation for successful teacher feedback and student satisfaction. Face-to-face interaction is replaced by methods that have the potential to be just as effective, if not more so when compared to large, over-sized traditional classrooms at large universities. Feedback online is more than an end of the course survey, which tends to be one-sided, with information to be used by the instructor alone. Online courses must replace all the nuances of face-to-face learning with comparable solutions. Teachers cannot look at their audience to judge interaction, or answer questions fielded during a class. But research is uncovering methods that contribute to student satisfaction and success.

Quality online feedback may be more time-consuming, especially compared to institutions of higher education where many professors are accustomed to lecturing in large classrooms and providing Teacher Assistants to handle student questions. Smaller class size is more conducive to teacher-student interaction, and some online courses may be able to maintain this, but more often online courses enroll more students. Effective instructors must spend time responding to students' questions about assignments and course materials, as well as give feedback on their student’s work (Gallien & Oomen-Early, 2008).  The asynchronous learning environment presents new opportunities for making these connections successful while subscribing to sound theories of online learning (Espasa & Meneses, 2009).  

Even if it requires more time, the ease at responding from any location, at any time presents advantages over the traditional office hours.  Nevertheless, the size of the class, whether online or offline will determine the ability of instructors to meet those needs.  Overall, a teacher must consider timeliness with all feedback methods, as students online can create questions at all hours, and thus teachers must organize their time to include addressing these needs. In the spirit of collaborative learning, teachers who enjoy their work of teaching and assisting learners, will be eager to improve their own strategies to facilitate better outcomes within the eLearning community.

Teacher feedback can be addressed in a number of ways:  


Any venue, business, personal, or educational values the timeliness of answered emails.  In online courses it is essential for instructors to encourage and respond to emails from their students, thus supporting constructivist learning theory (Anderson, Imdieke, & Standerford, 2011).  Students have previous knowledge in many areas, but they need feedback to ensure that they are on the right path. Teachers in a face-to-face scenario can receive cues from their students during a discussion, signaling understanding or confusion. This does not happen online, and students rarely email or post questions according to a study by Anderson, et. al (2011). Teachers should inform students that they will answer emails within a certain timeframe, thus increasing a sense of order and engagement. A timely response shows enthusiasm in the subject and the process of learning, which indicates that a teacher loves their vocation (Anderson, et. al, 2011).  Students sense this and know which of their instructors love to teach and are more effective teachers (Anderson, et. al, 2011). This will require a consistent method of checking emails and responding to students questions or concerns. 

Online Presence:  

Teachers contribute feedback in other ways besides email. Discussion boards are often set-up for student interaction, but teachers have the responsibility to monitor and add to those discussions.  One teacher found a way to provide feedback by searching the postings, where she was able to read between the lines and look for a student's needs, adding clarity, new resources, or stretching student’s thinking (Anderson, et. al, 2011).  A teacher’s presence online further creates opportunities for connecting and building upon constructivist learning theory. A silent instructor shows disinterest and does not contribute to the learning process, signaling this lack of concern to the students.

The nature of asynchronous learning provides the opportunity for continual dialogue at any time of the day or location.  This increases the potential for collaborative learning, where students and teachers contribute ideas based on previous knowledge, and further provides for a constructivist-learning environment (Haythornthwaite & Andrews, 2011).  This feedback goes both ways -- for students and instructors. Teachers benefit from feedback and good teachers thrive on the need to receive affirming feedback (Anderson, et. al, 2011).  By becoming active online, teachers are better able to modify their methods and thus find satisfaction as a teacher. Students benefit as well, and the exchange of information and the building of new knowledge constructs learning environments.  

Feedback during a course is a continual formative assessment which can address doubts and questions about the subject matter (Espasa & Meneses, 2009).  In their study, Espasa & Meneses (2009) reported that this type of ongoing feedback was used the most and consisted in teachers conveying how to improve work and increase learning.  In another study of an online computer-programming course, Ebrahimi (2012), found that early feedback reduced student errors and inefficient problem solving methods.  Students had unlimited access to the instructor and classmates, stimulating a collaborative environment, which resulted in students using less trial-and-error methods to solve problems.  This reduced time and frustration, but it also impacted creativity and  error-detection capabilities which could effect overall learning (Ebrahimi, 2012). The subject matter of an online course will need to play a role in deciding the type of feedback for optimal learning.

Graded Assignments:  

Instructors are often assessed by the grades they give. But, students are also cognizant of whether a teacher loved the subject and enjoyed sharing the knowledge. While it is important not to devalue the methods of analyzing if a student has gained the required knowledge, many students have a desire to learn (especially within their major interest).  Anderson, et. al (2011), noted that students frequently included feedback with their assignments, explaining how it went for them and why it might have been difficult for them.  This was helpful to the teacher who then analyzed the learning module and considered alterations. A learning theory of connectivism supports this type of feedback, as well as the theory of constructivism, building upon information in a community and co-constructing.  The process of encouraging feedback from students throughout the course, either in graded assignments or discussions, is a valuable resource in designing eLearning courses (Espasa & Meneses, 2009). Formative learning assessment is a continual feedback that leads students to move from needing more direction to becoming autonomous (Espasa & Meneses, 2009). This can take place after a graded assignment and to be an effective formative assessment should include advise to improve learning as well as correct answers and a grade.  However, in the study by Espasa & Meneses (2009), this type of graded assignment feedback did not include teacher information to improve learning, yet concluded that the relationship between feedback and learning was positive indicated by final grades and students’ satisfaction.

Personalized feedback versus collective feedback:

Although this should seem obvious, students preferred personal feedback from the instructor and actually did better academically than students receiving collective feedback (Gallien & Oomen-Early, 2008).  In this study, the students further reported qualitatively that they were more satisfied by the availability of the instructor to respond in a timely manner than the feedback they received on assignments (Gallien & Oomen-Early, 2008). 

Content and Process of Feedback:

Teacher feedback prompts students to assess their existing knowledge, analyze what they have learned, and reflect on what they still need to learn (Getzalf, et. al, 2009).  In a descriptive, exploratory study, Getzalf, et. al (2009), studied graduate students’ perceptions of effective online feedback. Content and process of feedback was examined to reveal five major themes as described in the table below: 

Student Involvement and Individuation
Effective feedback is a mutual process involving both student and instructor.
Being Positively Constructive
Effective feedback provides constructive guidance that builds confidence
Gentle Guidance
Effective feedback guides through explicit expectations and ongoing coaching
Timelines for effective feedback are mutually established and met.
Future Orientation
Effective feedback is applicable to future situations

(Getzalf, Perry, Toffner, Lamarche, & Edwards, 2009)

Effective feedback for online courses is still being studied to ensure successful outcomes (Getzalf, et. al, 2009). Both teachers and students play an important role in ensuring that feedback is mutual, constructive, ongoing, timely, and applicable to future situations (Getzalf, et. al, 2009). Interested teachers will adopt these upcoming methods and cooperate with researchers who will continue to fine tune the process of learning online around theories of learning that support constructivism, collaboration and connectivism. New methods of feedback may continually unfold as technology increases. Hopefully, providing effective feedback will become second nature to those who teach within the eLearning community.


Anderson, D., Imdieke, S., & Standerford, N. S. (2011). Feedback please: Studying self in the online classroom. International Journal of Instruction, 4(1), 3-15. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=ehh&AN=69726556&site=eds-live

Ebrahimi, A. (2011). How does early feedback in an online programming course change problem solving? Journal of Educational Technology Systems, 40(4), 371-379. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=ehh&AN=79629576&site=eds-live

Espasa, A., & Meneses, J. (2010). Analysing feedback processes in an online teaching and learning environment: An exploratory study. Higher Education: The International Journal of Higher Education and Educational Planning, 59(3), 277-292. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eric&AN=EJ872788&site=eds-live;http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10734-009-9247-4

Gallien, T., & Oomen-Early, J. (2008). Personalized versus collective instructor feedback in the online courseroom: Does type of feedback affect student satisfaction, academic performance and perceived connectedness with the instructor? International Journal on E-Learning, 7(3), 463-476. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspxdirect=true&db=ehh&AN=33019006&site=eds-live

Getzlaf, B., Perry, B., Toffner, G., Lamarche, K., & Edwards, M. (2009). Effective instructor feedback: Perceptions of online graduate students. Journal of Educators Online, 6(2)  Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eric&AN=EJ904070&site=eds-live

Haythornthwaite, C., & Andrews, R. (2011) E-learning Theory & Practice. London: Sage


Course Design: Embedding Technology in a Lesson

An effective eLearning course or lesson must be based on theories of online instructional design and technologies that will ensure successful outcomes. However, educators that are actively teaching do not always have the time to evaluate theories for eLearning. Furthermore, those who design courses for online learning may not have an understanding of current theories that support effective eLearning  (Hirumi, 2012). New instructional design theories specific for Internet learning may continually emerge (Synder, 2009).

Technology in itself does not promote learning, but it is an integral part of developing effective elearning based on learning theories. The ultimate goal of any online course is to affect a change of growth and development and learning theories are about how people learn (Wang, 2012).  When this happens through the use of technology and the Internet, old learning frameworks have the potential to meld with new emerging learning theories. Online instructors and designers must continually evaluate these theories if they wish to reap the results of effective eLearning. This is especially true as new online courses are continually being added to institutions of higher learner as well as the many massive open online courses.

However, it is easy for instructors and learners to become overwhelmed by the number of learning theories and how best to use them, even when they understand that theories advance practice (Wang, 2012). "Educators and scholars should unite theories with practice," as stipulated in Eastern thought (Wang, 2012, p. 9).

The online course that I am proposing is a subject that I am not yet proficient, but anxious to understand -- Learning theory for online learners. I am proposing a course for those who need to design effective eLearning courses based on sound eLearning theories, the framework that supports successful online learning.  The engine of delivery for online courses is the Internet and technology, but the framework of the course is instructional learning theory. 

The ASSURE lesson plan provides a template for selecting technology as part of the design, using the acronym, Analyze learners, State standards and objectives, Select strategies, technology, media, and materials, Utilize the media and materials, Require the learners to participate, and Evaluate the effectiveness of the lesson (Free CSS Templates, 2012). This is not a learning theory, but a template for implementing a learning theory.

The first task of designing a course or lesson, based on a theoretical framework is to determine the specific learning community, their prior knowledge, experience, and preferences (Mohanna & Waters, 2008). The targeted learners in this case are those who have a desire to create effective elearning courses based on learning theory. This could be the graduate student like myself, the teacher of a traditional school who must offer an online course, or business associates designing in-house training. Within these groups are those with varying degrees of knowledge, from novice to expert.  

The proposed lesson will be based on a learning environment that is asynchronous, available at the discretion of the adult student. Activities will include linked readings, video and slide presentations, and discussion forums, to address the varied preferences of learning styles and the ASSURE template (Free CSS Templates, 2012).  All of these activities will be embedded in the virtual learning classroom.

The theoretical framework for a course is the next aim, considering the audience and learning environment (Haythornthwaite & Andrews, 2011). It is good practice to try to align theory and practice by looking at the research on human learning (Hirumi, 2012). The course designer must decide on a learning theory and use strategies, tools and techniques that implement the desired learning objectives within that framework (Hirumi, 2012).

As theory can sometimes be complicated, involving a range of thoughts, and emerging as new theories in the field of elearning, it is important to provide this information in as many formats as possible, yet be clear and understandable. The ultimate goal is to improve the success of online courses through the use of theoretical frameworks, and therefore it is important that those who are designing these courses gain an understanding of learning theory and its application. For example, novices need courses based on learning theories that differ from experts because novices use a working backwards approach to problem solving while experts use a working forwards approach (Mohanna, et. al, 2008).  Cognitivist learning theory may overlap with constructivist theory, as novice progresses to expert. An effective course would address both of these learners, or provide a beginning course and an intermediate one.

Embedded technology fulfills the need for learners to absorb information, and can address various modes of reading, listening, watching, discussing (Horton, 2011).

A Proposed Lesson Plan with Embedded Technology: Understanding Learning Theories for eLearning Design

Adult learning theory:  Andragogy

2.  Watch Two  Videos:  

3.  Discussion Forum:  Share your thoughts about andragogy versus pedagogy or pedagogy leading to andragogy.

Theories of Instructional Design:

1.  View:

2.   Read:

3.  Watch:
  • Cognitive Load Theory

4.  View:

(Hirumi, 2012)

5.  Discussion Forum:  Share thoughts on learning theories. 


Free CSS Templates.  (2012).  Learning Modules: ASSURE Model-based lesson plan.  Retrieved from http://thanomsing.com/courses/sp11/modules/design/assure_model.htm 

Haythornthwaite, C., & Andrews, R. (2011).  E-learning Theory and Practice. London, England: Sage.

Horton, W. (2011). E-Learning by Design. San Francisco, CA: Wiley.

Hirumi, A. (2012). The design and sequencing of online and blended learning interactions: A framework for grounded design. Canadian Learning Journal, 16(2), 21-25. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=bth&AN=79461798&site=eds-live

Makki, B., & Makki, B. (2012). The impact of integration of instructional systems technology into research and educational technology. Creative Education, 3(2), 275-280. Retrieved from  http://www.doaj.org/doajfunc=openurl&genre=article&issn=21514755&date=2012&volume=03&issue=02&spage=275

Mohanna, K. & Waters, M. (2008). Multiple perspectives on learning: But which way for instructional  design? Education for Primary Care, 19, 563-568. Retrieved from http://proxy1.ncu.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=ehh&AN=35156501&site=eds-live

Snyder, M. M. (2009). Instructional-design theory to guide the creation of online learning communities for adults. TechTrends: Linking Research and Practice to Improve Learning, 53(1), 48-56. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspxdirect=true&db=eric&AN=EJ838556&site=eds-live; http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11528-009-0237-2

Wang, V. C. X. 1., vcxwang@gmail.com. (2012). Understanding and promoting learning theories. International Forum of Teaching & Studies, 8(2), 5-11. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=ofs&AN=82187857&site=eds-live

Disqus for Online Learning