Learning Theories and Technology

There are a number of learning theories applicable in the Instructional Design process.  Two common approaches include: behavioral and cognitive.

While behaviorist theories base their learning on the stimulus-response interaction, cognitivists base their learning on the process of discovery with the aid of an instructor.  Cognitivists place greater interest in knowledge, meaning, intentions, feelings, creativity, expectations, and problem-solving.  Behaviorists place greater emphasis on positive re-enforcement and negative punishment.  Although behaviorists and cognitivists are very different, both have some similarities.  Both believe learning theories should be objective and discuss the environmental impact training has upon the learner.  Cognitivists also believe in reinforcement, but on a different level. They reinforce the learner through a process of retrieving existing knowledge and presentation of new information.

Jerome Burner is the cognitivist that best reflects Higher Power Training‘s view of learning.  We are a firm believer in providing an environment that allows students to explore in a controlled environment allowing students to process, store, and retrieve information for use.  As a trainer it is essential to establish a foundation to develop critical thinking and problem solving skills within students.

Higher Power Training is responsible for designing innovative and interactive training programs that can be implemented into classrooms or online.  In the workplace, the cognitive approach works best because of the ever-changing growth of a company or organization.  With the use of the cognitive approach students have the opportunity to discover their own findings and share their results in a controlled but creative way.  Leadership qualities will be developed by providing a structured program that encourages inquiry-based learning and student creativity by branching through scenario based e-learning modules.

By Higher Power Training: Providing Instructional Design and Training Services since 2000


Classifying the Learner

As an Instructional Design and Trainer, it is essential to have a complete understanding of how people learn and that students have different learning capacities.

The Intuitive Learner – encompasses all of us in early childhood as we are all intuitive learners from birth to the age 7, when education in schools transform children into traditional students.  However, it is not uncommon that intuitive learners can extend beyond the age of seven.  Intuitive learners are typically more motivated to learn due to the hands-on approach for learning.

The Traditional Student – are students from the ages 7 and up are traditional students.  A traditional student is one that that learners gains knowledge from teacher lectures, books, and data.  Traditional students are taught to remember and regurgitate information, but not are unable to apply the information into real life situations.  Traditional learning does not support effective learning for all students, due to the fact that not all students have the ability to conform to a traditional student.  There are also are disadvantages for traditional students such as a lack of motivational learning and critical thinking.

The Disciplinary Expert – are those people who are able to take the knowledge of a traditional learner and apply that information to real life situations.  Disciplinary experts are those that base their learning more on inquiry based learning rather than standards based learning.  To become a disciplinary expert, a learner needs to be able to achieve higher order thinking when learning and assessing information in either a traditional or intuitive way.  Critical thinking is an essential part of being a disciplinary expert.

By Higher Power Training: Providing Instructional Design and Training Services since 2000

Growing with Technology

Technology has impacted almost every aspect of our lives including adult and higher education. Adult learners, like other students, all learn best in a variety of approaches and succeed best when their strengths are highlighted. It is the responsibility of the instructor to identify each student’s strengths and teach to those strengths; many times, technology can assist in this objective and provide both instructors and students with many benefits to enhance and reinforce the educational experience.

Technology in the Classroom

Technology has been used in training for years; it used to include VCRs, overhead projectors, and bulky desktop computers, but with the aid of technology advances, technology in the classroom has become endless. In the Era of Technology, students in a college classroom can be exposed to virtual reality training devices, PDAs and tablets, digital cameras, laptop computers, iPods, digital projectors, and smartboards. As adults we now have the opportunity to continue our professional development and training without ever stepping foot into a classroom by taking online courses. When considering the advantages and disadvantages of technology in supporting adult and higher education, three factors should be considered:

(1) Does the technology improve access to training?

(2) Does the technology improve the quality of education?

(3) Does the benefits of the technology justify the costs?

Effective Technology

The integration of technology has been an ongoing challenge for years but the rewards for technology integration are well worth the struggles. Three learning theories that impact adult learners are the behaviorist approach, constructivist approach, and cognitivist approach; all three approaches can be enhanced with technology and can successfully enhance the educational experience for all students no matter what their strengths and weaknesses. The digital age can enhance liberal education if we make appropriate use of digital opportunities. The key to technology effectiveness is proper integration of the technology so that it enhances or reinforces a lesson plan rather than creating difficulties for the students or teacher such as technical issues or distractions. In a world that is dominated by technology, it is important for students to be introduced to various technological options and experience how they can be beneficial in both their class as well as real-world application. One of the biggest benefits with technology such as the Internet is that students have unlimited access to information. Internet, as well as virtual reality, PowerPoint, iPods, PCs and tablets, can also offer interactivity. One of the most common benefits of technology is how various technologies can be combined, for example, a teacher can place all videos, PowerPoint lectures, and assignments on the Internet for students to use at home as they continue to study outside of the classroom or workplace. Technology can also aid in the development of problem-solving skills as well as encouraging inquiry-based thinking, thus gaining a deeper understanding of the information presented in class. The greatest benefit of technology is that technology will continue to improve and change, offering instructors even more ways to deliver the information to their students, thus allowing all students the best opportunity to succeed no matter what their best learning methods.

Ineffective Technology

Although technology offers a variety of benefits, there are disadvantages that need to be addressed before determining if and what technology can enhance adult learning. The most popular complaint with technology is the lack of professional development supplied to teachers and staff to help successfully integrate new technology into already pre-established curriculum and lesson plans. Technology can also provide distractions.

Technology in Training

When researching the different types of technologies available to enhance learning, a trainer must first determine their own knowledge of the technology and available professional development. Once the trainer is proficient with the technology, they must determine how integrate it successfully to achieve their ultimate goal. They must consider costs for technology, the time it will take to train the students in the technology, possible problems the trainer or students may encounter with the technology, and the ability for the students’ learning to be enhanced and not hindered by the integration of the technology. When identifying the needs for an adult course, a trainer must consider many factors that impact their students both in the class and outside of the class, such as the busy lives of the students; therefore, assignments and assessments can be a critical issue that should be addressed to help the adult students succeed. Another factor is that technology, especially for adults, can be overwhelming if it is a new experience for them. PDAs of tablets offer the best technology integration for adult courses for a number of reasons. The first is that many adults already have some experience with PDAs or at least some of their functions such as scheduling and calculating. The next is that the PDA will offer adult students a way to stay organized in the class and be able to track their professional, personal, and school workload. The third and probably the most important factor is that most adults have some experience with the software. Other benefits include taking all their class notes on the PDA, downloading lectures and videos, and accessing the internet. To be successful, technology needs to be integrated without the students even realizing it, so that the emphasis remains on the lesson and not on the technology.


Technology has become a fact of life in and out of the classroom. It is important to recognize that many types of technology can help students, if designed appropriately. It is the responsibility of trainers, executives, and instructional designers to understand that adults learn with a variety of approaches, and they must design the best opportunity for students to be successful in the trainings. Although there are disadvantages, effective technology can advance learning the same way technology has improved medicine, science, and our daily lives.Technology has impacted almost every aspect of our lives including adult and higher education. Adult learners, like other students, all learn best in a variety of approaches and succeed best when their strengths are highlighted. It is the responsibility of Higher Power Training to identify an organization’s strengths and teach to those strengths; many times, technology can assist in this objective and provide both trainers and students with many benefits to enhance the educational experience. Technology integration is a much debated topic in higher education. In this Era of Technology, people cannot avoid technology, whether its cell phones, plasma televisions, DVRs, etc. Although children are eager to learn and use these advanced technologies, adults are many times reluctant to venture out to the unknown and experience new technologies because it can be intimidating and overwhelming. Thus, it is crucial for teachers and trainers, who teach adults, to identify the appropriate technology integration to reinforce and encourage learning rather than to intimidate and distract adult learners.

Advantage of Hybrid Classes

Hybrid courses are courses that combine face-to-face classroom time with online learning activities that are designed to complement each other.

Hybrid courses contain three key points:

(1) Web-based learning activities are introduced to complement face-to-face work.

(2) “seat-time” is reduced, though not eliminated altogether.

(3) the Web-based and face-to-face components of the course are designed to interact pedagogically to take advantage of the best features of each. (Hybrid Courses)

Hybrid classes are designed for students that are looking to combine in-line classes with on-line activities.  They also provide students that have a full schedule with family, work, and other classes with the ability to take additional classes by eliminating travel time and on-campus time.  They also provide students that prefer an on-line environment with the opportunity to take advantage of some face-to-face interaction.  Where are hybrid classes offered?  How are they perceived by teachers and students?  Are they superior to traditional classes?

Hybrid classes are offered across the country at various universities including: the University of Central Florida, the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, Arizona State University, Brigham Young University, and Bakersfield College.  Although these schools offer hybrid courses, the subject are very diverse, supporting an idea that most courses can be designed as a hybrid course.  The University of Central Florida offers more than one hundred hybrid courses to help assist with the overpopulation of the institution; some of those classes include: U.S. Space History, Assembling Digital Media, and Composition I.  The University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee offers a number of different classes including: Advanced Nursing Practice Interventions, Cross-Culture Study of Religion, Survey American Literature, and Management Analysis.  The University of Arizona also offers a variety of classes such as Instructional Leadership.  Bakersfield College offers hybrid courses in multiple levels of mathematics.  Brigham Young University also offers hybrid courses, however their course structure differs from the other universities mentioned. At BYU, “Hybridization occurs when on-campus educators adopt distance education technologies and practices, and when distance education organizations adopt/adapt campus-based educational practices.”(Hybrid Learning)   With so many opportunities to experience a hybrid class, how are they perceived by the teachers and students?

Hybrid classes have many positive benefits for both teachers and students.  Hybrid classes offer teachers new teaching opportunities.  For instance, teachers can develop the lesson plans to utilize the strengths of both on-line and in-class teaching strategies to be more effective in achieving the class objectives and goals.  These courses thus provide solutions to problems that were difficult to fix with the limitations of traditional in-class or on-line classes.  Teachers also have the opportunity to connect to their students more in a hybrid class than they do in an on-line class, while students are more responsible for their participation and work than they typically are in an in-class course.  “The integration of out-of-class activities with in-class activities allows more effective use of traditional class time.”(UW-M)  Discussions that spread over both on-line class time and in-class time can be much more effective for two reasons.  The first is that students can spend more time reflecting on the discussion topic, research the topic, and collect their thoughts.  The other advantage is that students who are less likely to participate in an in-class discussion can still share their ideas via on-line.  “Faculty believe that their students learn more in the hybrid format than they do in traditional class sections.  They report that students write better papers, performed better on exams, produced higher quality projects, and were capable of more meaningful discussions on course material when reflecting online.”(Hybrid Courses)  Another benefit is the organizational process of a hybrid class.  Quizzes, grading, surveys can all be automated, while threaded discussions, course documents, announcements, and grades are easily accessible for students.  Although there are many positives offered in a hybrid class, new technologies and teaching approaches are likely to have their challenges as well.

There are a few challenges that hybrid courses present to teachers.  The first is the redesign of a course; course objectives and goals may change, teachers will have to redesign their lesson plans to effectively integrate in-class lessons with on-line activities, and most importantly, teachers must be comfortable with all technology necessary to provide an effective on-line component.  The biggest challenge a teacher will face once the class is established is managing the two different environments learning without overwhelming themselves or their students.  Students on the other hand will be forced to learn new technologies which can make a course more difficult to achieve the goals and objectives if students are spending more time troubleshooting technology rather than on the on-line activities.  After weighing the positives and negatives of hybrid classes, how do they compare to traditional in-class courses and on-line courses.

When hybrid courses are properly designed utilizing the benefits of both on-line and in-class components, the hybrid courses become superior to both on-line and in-class courses.  Students have a greater time flexibility and convenience by working on-line.  Students will have the opportunity to interact and participate with classmates and their teacher in the environment they are most comfortable with.  Students will have 24/7 access to course work and on-line resources while having face-to-face time to assist with any difficulties students are having on-line.  In-class time will also provide classmates and teachers the opportunity build stronger connections than an on-line class will.

Based on the information gathered, hybrid classes on an effective alternative to the traditional in-class or on-line courses.

Hybrid classes are highly recommended due to the number of benefits for teachers, students and universities.  Teachers “may find improved attendance in the reduced classroom portions of the course, while their face-to-face teaching techniques are expanded and discussion responses by students are generally more thoughtful when written than when given extemporaneously.”(Hybrid Learning)  Students benefit by “increased time flexibility – including reduced commuting and parking time & opportunities for employment.  Students also have access to pre-recorded lectures and course materials for review if needed.”(Hybrid Learning)  These lectures are typically better quality and easier to comprehend because they are done in shorter modules.  Universities also benefit by “increased enrollment without increasing classroom space. Schools can offer “paired” courses on one day (block scheduling) allowing commuters & part time students the opportunity to take 2 classes with only one on-campus visit.”(Hybrid Learning)   Hybrid classes take advantage of technology and successfully integrate it into education improving learning across the country.



Arizona State University. Accessed April 15, 2007 from http://asuonline.asu.edu/FacultySupport/Hybrid.cfm.

Bakersfield College. Accessed April 15, 2007 from www.bakersfieldcollege.edu/distance_learning/hybrid.asp.

Brigham Young University. Accessed April 15, 2007 from http://home.byu.edu/webapp/home/index.jsp

 Hybrid Courses. Accessed April 15, 2007 from http://www4.uwm.edu/ltc/hybrid/.

 Hybrid Learning. Accessed April 15, 2007 from http://media.njit.edu/hybrid/defined.php.

University of Central Florida. Accessed April 15, 2007 from http://www.ucf.edu/.

University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee. Accessed April 15, 2007 from http://www.uwm.edu/Dept/LTC/hybridcourses.html



M-Learning (Thesis Volume 3.1: Project Design – Learning Theory)

The Ocean Institute Podcast Program was designed with a combination of learning theories, behaviorism, constructivist, and multiple intelligences, as the foundation.  The concept of the program to have students produce their own podcasts is a valuable constructivist approach to learning.  The process behind producing the podcasts in groups was based on the theory of multiple intelligences; as students work together and utilize their strengths to produce a high quality podcast.  The reward students received by taking ownership of their project were an element of behaviorism.

The OIPP consisted of five elements to successfully make learning motivational and the produced podcasts useful: professional development for the teachers, the student field trip, the student research, and the podcast production process.  The professional development for the teachers is the most critical aspect to limit the performance gaps within the program as the day to day process of how the program was conducted by each individual teacher; it was essential that the teachers were prepared properly to facilitate the program.  Due to the time constraints and available resources, the professional develop training of the program will not be addressed in detail.  The field trip element of this program was one of two essential motivators for the students.  The field trip design was modeled after pre-existing programs provided by the Ocean Institute.  The modifications were based on the concept that the students must take what they learned on the field trip and apply that into a program monitored at school; this instructional design of incorporating classroom time and the field trip is a unique concept of informal education but perhaps essential in a time when schools must function under extremely strict budgets and activities like field trips are being eliminated by school districts.  The podcast production element was another motivational element, allowing students to take advantage of the latest technology fads in their learning process.   The fact is, school-aged children spend hours on websites like MySpace and YouTube, both producing videos with their cell phones and uploading videos to their iPods; it only makes sense to provide students with a structured process to develop meaningful podcasts that they can be proud of and take ownership of.  The fourth element was the research process conducted by students; this was the element that fits within the State Standards and is the priority when justifying the work in class.  The pedagogical element, the most important element of instructional design, provided the overall structure and process of the program.  With the aid of the online content and resources, this program combined the flexibility and creativity within each class with the structure and guidance necessary to produce the expected results and achieve the program and student objectives.

M-Learning (Thesis Volume 2.7: Review of the Literature)

In the Era of Technology, when every person has access to the Internet, multimedia in the classroom has transformed from the traditional educational television stations and video tapes to interactive learning websites and instructional podcasts.  “Internet resources are offering multimedia communications as a way to bring history, literature, science, and other topics alive for visitors” (Lamb & Johnson 2007).  A podcast is a media file, either audio or video file, distributed over the Internet for playback on personal computers and portable media players.  The word podcast comes from combining iPod, trademarked by Apple, and broadcasting.  Since 2001 podcasts have been developed played on mp3 and mp4 players, computers, and now televisions with the aide of Apple T.V.  “Between September 28, 2004 and September 28, 2005 the number of web pages found by the Google search engine containing the term ‘podcasts’ increased from 24 hits to more than 100 million.  Consequently, the New Oxford American Dictionary chose ‘podcasting’ as its Word of the Year for 2005” (Copley, 2007).  According to Lamb and Johnson (2007) podcasters provide a variety of programming formats and content.

  1. Collaborative projects include those podcasts that have an interactive component.  Some websites invite listeners to participate in local and global projects.
  2. Current events are accessible by most news sources that are now producing podcasts, such as CNN.
  3. Many government documents have been translated into podcasts to provide students a different format to learn and understand well-known documents such as the Declaration of Independence.
  4. Interviews of experts in content area fields are also accessible via podcasts.  These podcasts can reinforce concepts, provide personal examples, and generate interest in current events.
  5. Controversial issues are also accessible via podcasts.  They can provide unique perspectives and thought-provoking discussions.
  6. Podcasts can also be created for language lessons and how-to projects specifically designed for instruction.
  7. Critical reviews of books, television, movies, and games are also accessible via podcasts.
  8. Podcasts can also be produced to provide virtual tours of museums and zoos.

For educational purposes, podcast integration can be developed in one of two ways; either teacher or SME produced podcasts designed to enhance classroom lectures, or student produced podcasts to demonstrate and assess students’ academic growth.  One scenario of podcast integration into higher education is as follows:

A physical education teacher directs her students to the class web site.  The web site contains a link to an audio file that the students can download and listen to at their leisure.  The teacher instructs her students to listen to the file in preparation for their next class.  The file contains information about the reduction of heart disease risk from increased physical activity.  The file concludes by asking the students questions that they should be able to answer after listening to the recording.  The next day, students arrive in class and immediately begin to engage in a discussion about the audio file and its contents.  The teacher was able to use minimal class time to instruct students on the topic to review information and to assess students’ assimilation of the content.  She was immediately free to move into higher-order teaching strategies and content applications (Mikat, Martinez, Jorstad, 2007).

In the higher level education, some universities are embracing the new technology to the point that they are distributing iPods to college students as a part of enrollment.  Drexel University’s School of Education distributed free iPods to their students in hopes to spark innovative uses of the technology.  Professors will record and post lectures online for students to download; students will record study-group sessions and interviews using microphone attachments handed out with the iPods (Read, 2005).  The Drexel program was modeled from the original Duke Giveaway program which passed out iPods to all incoming freshman in 2004.  Podcasts have been so popular in the higher education platform that Apple responded by launching iTunes U in 2006, a platform for universities to upload and access podcast resources of classes.  Although using podcasts is becoming a much wider accepted practice in higher education, K – 12 schools have shown more reluctance.  However, K – 12 schools have been exploring the process of integrating the production of podcasts into classroom curriculum as a motivation and assessment tool.

M-Learning (Thesis Volume 2.6: Review of the Literature)

One of the biggest keys for a successful online educational program is the web page usability; without a properly designed website, the greatest instructional designed programs will fail to reach its potential.  The Internet contains links to virtually hundreds of definitions for usability.  Jakob Nielsen, called “the guru of Web page usability” by The New York Times, defines usability as, “a quality attribute that assesses how easy user interfaces are to use.  The word “usability” also refers to methods for improving ease-of-use during the design process.”(Nielsen)  He goes to state that usability is defined by five quality components:

  • Learnability: How easy is it for users to accomplish basic tasks the first time they encounter the design?
  • Efficiency: Once users have learned the design, how quickly can they perform tasks?
  • Memorability: When users return to the design after a period of not using it, how easily can they reestablish proficiency?
  • Errors: How many errors do users make, how severe are these errors, and how easily can they recover from the errors?
  • Satisfaction: How pleasant is it to use the design?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, “usability testing is the process by which the human-computer interaction characteristics of a system are measured, and weaknesses are identified for correction. Such testing can range from rigorously structured to highly informal, from quite expensive to virtually free, and from time-consuming to quick. While the amount of improvement is related to the effort invested in usability testing, all of these approaches lead to better systems.”(Conrad & Levi)  Ultimately, if students have the ability to work through the website or software with greater ease, more likely students will reap the benefits of program.  As Martyn Sloman states, communication is the key to the successful integration of e-learning.  Sloman identifies five principles that should be addressed in an e-learning program:

  1. Recognize the limitations of the population being targeted.
  2. Relevance drives out resistance.
  3. Most learning requires an intermediary to advise and direct the learner.
  4. E-learning should be linked with instructor – led courses when possible.
  5. Support and automate.

As technology advances, methods for learning are transforming from E-learning to M-learning (mobile learning).  “Desktop solutions that require presence at a static screen are less tolerated by many young people.  Young people on the move expect not to be tied down with static equipment and e-learning that does not respond to this may be limited in future” (Cunningham, 2007).