As instructional designers apply behaviorism principles to create courses for virtual settings, it is important to keep in mind that the driving force behind progress is reinforcement.
Take audio visual presentations as instructional methods employed in virtual classrooms. People learn through observation, so audio or video presentations are an efficient way to enable learners to understand the subject, organize their own thoughts around that subject, and ultimately present their own analysis of the matter. In behaviorism, only the response to the information received can be measured, so it is a good idea to develop materials that promote drill tasks. This involves teaching concepts by presenting a series of steps that lead to expected outcomes. For example, in a database class, the lessons would entail presentation of various data types as well as the commands for specific functions. Step by step video tutorials would be provided, guiding the learner as to what they should be doing and what the results should look like. Instructional designers can make these theoretical and mundane instructional materials fun and engaging by including drag and drop interactions, allowing the learners to easily “move” the steps around as they try to figure out the sequence. After that, learners may be asked to repeat the steps multiple times. The principle of behaviorism dictates that a person, upon seeing how specific events lead to certain outcomes, should be able to make the connection. In areas, such as programming, where there is no room for error or deviation, repetition and drills are of utmost importance.
2. Feedback and Recognition
Keep in mind that reinforcement is the hallmark of behaviorism. While eLearning does not always involve face to face interactions with the instructor in the form of video conferences or webinars, learners can still take their dose of positive reinforcement through feedback that could take many forms. For example, corrective feedback could be in the form of programmed responses triggered when the learner chooses the correct answer. It could also be in the form of certification upon completion of certain courses. Certificates of achievement and other forms of recognition provide intrinsic reinforcement that further encourages learners to continue staying active in the course.
3. Response Measurement
Challenging end of the module activities or lesson learning checks can also measure learning and retention. At the end of the module, or certain parts of the course, the learners could be required to showcase their knowledge through a combination of different quiz types or by a practical exam that could be easily assessed.
ELearning has the built-in advantage of allowing the instructional designer to easily integrate features that would make the learning experience more game-like. Gamification can be done by establishing a points system, allowing the learners to have visual cues that illustrate their progress (e.g. a completion percentage bar or badges that signify learners’ accomplishments). Tests scores could also be integrated into a hall of fame or leaderboards, so that the names of the top performers could be showcased. The latter has the added bonus of contributing to reinforcement and recognition.
As we all know, eLearning is no longer merely an add-on to traditional settings. By applying Behaviorism principles, instructional designers can significantly enhance the learning process.