As I furthered my knowledge about how people learn, it made me realize that people are not just diverse physically and culturally, but also in the way they learn. By examining and comparing the various learning theories throughout this course, I have gained an awareness, understanding and appreciation of why the theories were developed and in which contexts they appear to be more relevant. I also identified the learning theory that best describes my own personal learning process. As an instructional designer, I must always be cognizant of my own learning preferences and processes so that they do not overly influence my work. It is vital to recognize and appropriately design instruction to meet the needs of all learners.
I have worked in higher education throughout my career yet I am able to see how learning theories, learning styles, educational technology and motivation equally applies to K-12 educators and instructional designers. Adult learners have different challenges than children, such as balancing work, school and family life. (Cercone, 2008) They also bring life experience and prior learning to the classroom and tend to be self-directed and motivated. As an adult learner, I am primarily intrinsically motivated and enjoy the autonomy of the online learning environment.
Our learning path in this course was well-constructed and demonstrated the effectiveness of scaffolding. Once the foundation of learning theories was established, we were able to build upon this foundation by examining adult learners, online learners, using technology effectively and the role of motivation. Using the ARCS model as well as constructing the Learning Theory Matrix provided me with an excellent opportunity to consolidate many of the topics studied in the course. The Learning Theory Matrix allowed me to compare and contrast the various learning theories and I was able to apply the ARCS model in a problem-solving context to address the issue of motivation in an online course.
As an instructional designer, recognizing and understanding the many factors that impact learning is essential if I am to effectively meet the needs of a wide variety of learners. Even with well-designed instruction, students will be more successful if they are motivated to learn. In an online learning environment, it may be even more challenging to motivate students.
I now can appreciate how complex learning is and why there are so many different articles, journals, publications and resources available to instructional designers and educators. I look forward to my next course in Instruction Design where I hope to further apply my knowledge of learning theories and instruction.