Constructivist Learning Environments

Week 8 – Instructional Design – Theory/Applied

Summary: This week we discussed the epistemological assumptions implicit in the design of learning environments and the characteristics of constructivist learning environments.

“Aside from a few notable exceptions, the design of most online learning environments is structured around the traditional instructional delivery model…”

Quinton, 2010, p. 327

The week’s focus on digital tools and learning environment design reminded me of an important truth – that education technology or online learning is not a practice or an approach to teaching and learning. It’s a tool, and it can be used to support many different delivery models.

This very much mirrors some of the challenges that we are encountering at work with our current paradigm shift. Although we are moving towards more robust digital learning, often the design of these modules still reflects a very objectivist approach to teaching. Our faculty tend to favour recorded lectures over many other types of digital learning. My group is working with faculty to try and encourage more digital interactivity, included embedded comprehension checks and opportunities for students to choose their own path through the module. However, very few, if any, of these modules offer students opportunities to interact with their peers. They instead favour one type of interaction: student to resources. Boettcher suggests that a balance between all three types of interaction, student-teacher, student-student and student resources is important (2007, p. 54). Although the other types of interactions, student-teacher and student-student, do occur in the classroom part of the learning experiences, I think that more balance can achieved in the online component of the course as well.

Quinton discusses how Web 2.0 technologies allow learners to contribute to the construction of knowledge rather than simply receiving knowledge in a prepackaged format (2010). I think there would be value in us reframing our digital learning experience in order to benefit from some of these social elements.


  • Boettcher, J. 2007. Ten Core Principles for Designing Effective Learning Environments: Insights from Brain Research and Pedagogical Theory. Innovate 3 (3).
  • Quinton, S.R. (2010). Principles of Effective Learning Environment Design. In Ebner, M. & Schiefner, M. (Eds.) Looking Toward the Future of Technology-Enhanced Education: Ubiquitous Learning and the Digital Native, 327-352.

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