M-Learning (Thesis Volume 2.1: Review of the Literature)


There are many elements that must be addressed before producing a technology-rich instructional program.  First you must follow your instructional design guidelines including identifying your target audience and needs.  There are many elements that must all be designed properly for the entire program to run efficiently, including your actual instruction, your presentation platform, your assessment tools, and resources.  This review of literature will address learning theories developed by Thorndike and Skinner; technology integration to improve curriculum by Dr. Gardner; general technology integration into the classroom, distance learning, multimedia instruction, gaming and motivation, and podcasting integration; all while focusing on the foundation of instructional design.

Literature Review

When designing any program, one of the elements you must take into account is the target audience; you must understand how they best learn.  Conditioning human behavior is a topic that has been researched for years.  Two psychologists that spent much of their lives researching and testing their theories were Edward Thorndike and B.F. Skinner.  Both psychologists developed their own theories on how to condition human behaviors; Thorndike’s theory is called the Law of Effect and Skinner’s theory is the Reinforcing Stimulus/Reinforcing Concepts.  Although both theories are different, they both share many similarities and can potentially be combined to help create an effective computer software program to effectively teach students in the classroom.

Thorndike’s Law of Effect states that a response followed by a pleasant consequence is more likely to be repeated, whereas a response followed by an unpleasant consequence is more likely to be diminished.  The Law of Effect is directly a function of the interactions between positive (pleasant) and negative (unpleasant) reinforcements and punishments.  A positive consequence is defined as the gaining of something, while a negative consequence is the removal of something.  A positive reinforcement can be defined as something that can be perceived as a pleasant consequence, thus increasing the likelihood that a behavior will occur again.  A negative punishment is defined as something that provides an unpleasant consequence thus decreases the likelihood that something will be repeated.  The greater the reinforcements or punishments, the greater the effects of the law.

Skinner’s Reinforcing Stimulus/Reinforcing Concepts defines a reinforcing stimulus or reinforcer as a special kind of a stimulus encountered by someone performs a behavior.  This special stimulus has the effect of increasing the behavior occurring just before the reinforcer.  Skinner’s concepts state that if a behavior is followed by a consequence, and the nature of the consequence modifies tendency to repeat the behavior in the future.  A behavior followed by a reinforcing stimulus may result in an increased probability of that behavior occurring in the future; while a behavior that lacks a reinforcing stimulus may result in a decreased probability of that behavior occurring in the future.

Both Thorndike’s and Skinner’s theories have many similarities and differences.  Both theories recognize that consequences due to behaviors have a direct impact on conditioning human behavior.  However, in Skinner’s theory, a behavior is likely to reoccur based on a reinforcer rather than whether the stimulus is positive or negative.  Thorndike’s theory on the other hand is based primarily on the reinforcements and punishments, both which in theory could be stimulating.  Both theories can cross paths in an attempt to positively reinforce someone for a good behavior.  The theories are less likely to co-exist in negative behaviors.  For example, if a child does something they are not supposed to, you are likely to yell no to them which is a negative punishment, however still very stimulating to a child.  The one instance when a the theories can cross paths for negative behavior is when the negative punishment described by Thorndike involves taking attention away from the person doing the behavior, thus limiting the stimulus described by Skinner.

In designing an online program, it is critical to take the consistencies within both of these theories to identify the most appropriate ways to positively reinforce students for success within the program, while limiting the stimulus for incorrect decisions within the program.


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