Thought Question 3 How does behaviourist theory guide online learning? There are many ways in which behaviourist theory impacts and guides online learning. As a result the theory is still recommended for developing online programs and material (Buzzetto More, 2007). An obvious aspect of behaviourism which can be used for online learning is structure and organization (Mergel, 1998). By keeping the learner focused on a clear goal, online or not, the objective receives more attention and the student’s required response to the stimuli is clear. As a result of this theory, all online classes require clear and concise organization due to differences in location and time. Besides clear structure and goals, behaviourism also guides online education through social interaction operant conditioning (Kramer, 2002). Any interaction carries intrinsic and extrinsic rewards and punishments and online education is no different. Modern technology enables the online community to imitate the physical world and complex communication with text, audio and video are possible. Most, if not all, online courses have some level of social interactivity and it is here that behaviourism can impact learning deeply. Through these interactions, forums, wikis and blogs students and their educators exhibit the same reward and punishment behaviours as Skinner (1969) spoke of. Rewards and punishments come in the admiration, praise, correction or dismissal of one’s ideas not unlike a normal learning environment. Therefore, in addition to an organized learning environment, online learning also offers the interactions needed to allow behaviourist theories to apply. Behaviourism is by no means the only theory to be considered in any educational setting and it plays a functional role in our basic teaching and learning structure even through online methods (BuzzettoMore, 2007). A comprehensive plan utilizing many theories is needed for proper online education, but I do feel the basic components of behaviourist theory offer a solid foundation for online learning.
References: BuzzettoMore, N.A. Advanced Principles of Effective elearning. Santa Rosa: Informing Science, 2007. Kramer, C. Success in Online Learning. Florence: Thomson Delmar Learning, 2002. Mergel, B. “Instructional Design and Learning Theory.” 1998. University of Saskatchewan. Retrieved September 21, 2008, from http://www.usask.ca/education/coursework/802papers/mergel/brenda.htm Skinner, B. F. Contingencies of reinforcement: a theoretical analysis. New York: Appleton CenturyCrofts, 1969.