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Learning Theory

Neil Hughes introduces the issue of Learning Theory.
Painting of a classroom in which a teacher is feeding books into a machine that is transmitting knowledge to the students attending class. They are attached to the machine by a system of wires that connect to them via a helmet and headphones.
© University of Nottingham

When experts in blended and hybrid learning engage in explicit discussion of learning theory and pedagogical frameworks, they tend to emphasise the importance of active learning based on constructivist and social constructivist learning theories. In their seminal Blended Learning in Higher Education: Framework, Principles and Guidelines, Garrison and Vaughan (2009: 14) argue, for example, that:

The ideal educational transaction is a collaborative, constructivist process that has enquiry at its core. Social interaction and collaboration shapes and tests meaning, thus enriching understanding and knowledge sharing.
More recently, Joosten and Weber (2021) in their work on blended learning, advocate a movement away from an instructor-centred pedagogy based on behaviourist learning theory towards a more student-centred approach. The idea that information is transferred from instructors to students or from machines to students as in the image above, has been widely criticised in the literature. According to Joosten and Weber (2021), the adoption of a student-centred model of blended learning has been a key ingredient in improvements in the learning outcomes of students at the Universities of Central-Florida and Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where they are based.


A learning theory closely related to constructivism is connectivism. From the connectivist perspective, learning in the digital age does not require learners to retain large quantities of information in their brains as Villemard’s painting suggests. Instead, it involves providing, accessing and enhancing knowledge and information that is distributed across informational and interpersonal networks. As Neil Selwyn (2017: 90) explains:
The ability to passively retain information is less important than the skills to access and actively augment information shared elsewhere when required.
© University of Nottingham
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Blended and Hybrid Learning Design in Higher Education

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