Learning Theories in E-learning – Part I

Learning Theories in E-learning – Part I

I believe that (the) educational process has two sides – one psychological and one sociological. . . Profound differences in theory are never gratuitous or invented. They grow out of conflicting elements in a genuine problem.John Dewey, In Dworkin, M. (1959) Dewey on Education

From our childhood to the life where we earn and stabilize, we keep learning. Learning is a process which brings a relative change in the behavior which is permanent. Our perspective changes as we use what we learn, and this is namely the change which we adapt. Indeed, there are many other definitions of learning like gaining knowledge through studies and so on.

In eLearning, we have a few theories which help us understand the process of learning clearly. By blending learning theories with technology, it is easy to make online courses effective. There are many paradigms of learning, but in this blog I am going to discuss three learning theories viz. Behaviorism, Cognitivism, and Constructivism.


Behaviorism was originated by Ivan Pavlov (classical conditioning) and B. F. Skinner’s (operant conditioning). Classical conditioning refers to the creation of a totally conditioned response when an unconditioned stimulus and the response is operated with a conditioned stimulus. Whereas, operant conditioning refers to a controlled response with a reward or punishment according to the received behavior.

According to this theory, the learner starts off very clean and then behavior is transformed with the help of either positive or negative reinforcement. This implies that the learner will need a constant reinforcement to keep sustain his interest.


The theory is based on the principle that the brain has a “black box”, which needs to be opened and understood. Here, the learner is considered an information processor where the theory focuses on how the information is retrieved and stored.

Learning, according this theory, is achieved through practice and constant use of the information. The knowledge is imparted applying the retention strategies to the memory through short term memory, but gradually focus on the long term memory.


Here, the instructor acts only as a facilitator who encourages learners to explore on their own. This type of theory helps learners retain the information in the long term as they are actively participating.

To conclude, I would like to say these theories help understand the learning process. Please do share your views on these learning theories.