E-Learning Theory – Theoretical Models for Teaching and Research (2023)

Haixia He

E-learningtheory isbuiltoncognitive science principlesthatdemonstratehowthe useand designofeducational technologycanenhance effective learning(David, 2015; Wang 2012).The theorywas developed from a set of principlescreatedbased on Cognitive Load Theory (Sweller, Van Merriënboer & Paas, 2019).AccordingtoDavid (2015),Cognitive Load Theoryis “the amount of mental effort involved in working memory” (n.p.) during a task and can be categorized into germane,intrinsic,and extraneous effort.Since theworking memory has limited capacity andthebrainwill suffer fromoverload iflearnersare presented with too much information, causing inefficient learning, it is essential tobalance these three types of load to promote learning efficiency(Clark, Nguyen &Sweller, 2005).Based on this,Mayer,Swellerand Moreno (2015)established 11design principles that were created to reduce extraneous cognitive load and manage germane and intrinsic loads at an appropriate level for learners using technology (Mayer,Sweller& Moreno, 2015; Wikipedia, 2020).Thesetypes of cognitive load, along with design principles and technology, comprise e-learning theory.E-learning theorybelongs tothegrand theory of Connectivismbecause itemphasizes how technologies can be used and designed to create newlearning opportunities andtopromote effective learning.

Multimedia learning is one specificprincipleof e-learning theory, and itcontendsthat deeper learning can be promotedusing two formats among audio, visual, and text instead of one or three(Mayer,Sweller& Moreno, 2015).Previous studies relevant to e-learning theoryhave provided evidence that multimedia design principlescanfostereffective learning (Mayer & Moreno, 2003; Moreno & Mayer, 2007).For example,Mayer (1997) conducted several reviews of multimedia learning and found that multimedia instructionwaseffective. To be specific, Mayer (1997) reviewedeightstudies on whether multimedia instruction was effective and found that students who were givenapresentation with both verbal and visual explanationshada75% higher median score forcreative solutions on problem-solving transfer tests than studentswho experiencedonly verbal explanation. Tenstudies reviewed by Mayer (1997) found that students showedscored more than50%over the median oncreative solution transfer tests when verbal and visualdescriptionswereconcurrentlyemployed.

Personalization isalso anessential principleof e-learning theory.This principle suggeststhatpresentingwords inaconversational and informal stylecan help enhanceeffectivelearning (Mayer et al., 2015).Several studieshaveshownthatpersonalization canbe effectivein learning.For example,Kartal’s(2010)study investigatedthe effectiveness ofthedesign principle ofpersonalization with 89 college students in anIstanbuluniversity in Turkey by testing their computerized instructional content inapersonalized informal style, personalized formalstyle,and neutral-formal style. The results showed that the amount of learning increased when the language style was formal and conversational.

Another study conducted byKurt (2011)showed consistent resultswith Kartal’s (2010) study. Kurt (2011)examined the personalization effectwith multimedia material inaformal style with 22 students and conversational style with 23 students. Using an achievement test, a cognitive load scale for both groups,and a questionnaire for the personalized group, Kurt found that students’ cognitive load scores in the personalized groupwere significantly different fromand better thanthose in the non-personalized group. Besides, students in the personalized group said that the conversational styleappliedin the multimedia software inspired them to learn and they felt that arealhuman was talking to them.In addition, students showedapreferenceformultimedia materials.

Several other studies have also shownotherdesign principles of e-learning theory to be effective.Some researchers studied themodality principle,which claims that the use of visuals accompanied by audio narrationinstead of on-screen textismore effective for learning(Mayer et al.,2015). For example,Moreno (2006) conducted a meta-analysis on modality effects. The results revealed significant learning benefits due tothemodality principle across different media.

As can be seen from the above discussion, applying the principles of e-learning theory with its design principles can promote effective learning. Therefore, e-learning theory can be useful for teachers to design effective courses and for researchers to understand how effective learning with and through technology can happen.

The modelin Figure 1 demonstratesthat concepts of three types of cognitive load and eleven empirical principles compose two constructs:cognitive load anddesign principles. These two constructs then combine to lead to the proposition of e-learning theory.

E-Learning Theory – Theoretical Models for Teaching and Research (1)

Conceptsand Constructs

(Video) eLearning theory

As noted previously, the three cognitiveloadsareintrinsic, germane, and extraneousbased on the amount of mental effort.Intrinsic load is“the mental work imposed by the complexity of the content in your lessons and is primarily determined by your instructional goals” (Clark et al., 2005, p.9).Germaneload is “mental work imposed by instructional activities that benefit the instructional goal” (Clark et al., 2005, p.11).Extraneous load is “the mental work that is irrelevant to the learning goal and consequently wastes limited mental resources”(Clark et al, 2005, p.12).Together these form the construct “cognitive load.”

E-learning theoryis also composed of principles that can be integrated into instructional design; they that demonstrate“how educational technology can be used and designed to promote effective learning” (Wang, 2012, p.346). The elevenprinciplesof the modelthat can promote effective learningare:

  1. Multimedia principle:Usingtwo formats of audio, visual, and text instead of using one or three.

  2. Modality principle:Explainingvisual content with audio narration instead of on-screen text.

  3. Coherence principle:Avoiding irrelevant videos and audio.

  4. Contiguity principle:Aligningrelevantinformationto correspondingpicturesconcurrently.

  5. Segmenting principle:Managing complicated content by breaking a lesson into smallparts.

  6. Signaling principle:Offering signals for the narration, such as arrows, circles, and highlights.

  7. Learner control principle:Allowingthelearner to control their learning pace.

  8. Personalization principle:Presenting words inaconversationaland informalstyle.

    (Video) Learning Theories and Instructional Design webinar

  9. Pre-training principle:Providing descriptionsor explanationsfor keyconceptsin a lessonbeforethe main procedure of that lesson.

  10. Redundancy principle:Presentingvisuals with audio oron-screentext but not both.

  11. Expertiseeffect:Considering that design principles mayhaveadifferent effect on learners withvariousamounts of prior knowledge.(Clark & Mayer, 2016;Mayer,2003;Mayer & Moreno, 2003;Mayer et al., 2015)

Together, these eleven principles form the construct “design principles.”

Overall, the ideas of cognitive load anddesign principles can be integrated to reduceextraneous cognitive load and manage germane and intrinsic loadsby making it easier for learners’ brainsto handle the amount of information and processing that they must do during instructional tasks.


Based on the concepts and constructs, the model endswith the proposition, thatifteachersdesign principled taskswith educational technologies that reduceextraneous cognitive load andmanagegermane and intrinsic load at appropriate levels for students, they can learn effectively(Mayer,Sweller& Moreno, 2015).

Severalpossible waysexist for usingthismodelin research and practice. For example,researcherscan use this model to better understandhowdesign principles can be integratedininstruction to promote effective learning. Researchers can also conduct studies usingthee-learning theory model to describe the design principlesinlearningcontexts.In addition, this model can also help researchersaddressthe followingtopics:

  • Howresearch-based e-learning methodologiescanbe usedto createaneffective e-learning course.

  • Howteachers canminimizeextraneous load and manageintrinsic load to helpeffectivelearning.

    (Video) Theories, principles and models in education and training

  • Which design principles could contribute most to effective student learning.

Furthermore,teachers could applythee-learning theorymodelin their classroomsto create effective e-learning courses.For example, teachers canhelpstudentsmanage theirintrinsic cognitive load bysplittingthe content so that students can acquire knowledge step by step(Clark et al., 2005).Teachers canalsoscaffold students with smallportionsof new content graduallyso thatstudents cancontrol their learninginaself-paced e-learningenvironment(Clark et al., 2005). Further, teachers can use basic digitalcommunication toolswith visuals, text,and audio todemonstratelearning content in ways that can help to reducestudents’ intrinsiccognitive loads.In addition, teacherscanapply effective graphics, audio, and text tominimize redundant content, concentrate onimportantcontent, and offer performance assistance to increase external memory.More examples of how teachers can applye-learning theory inclassroomsinclude:

  • Reducing extraneous cognitive load by avoiding irrelevant audio or complex visuals to describe complicated text(the coherence principle)

  • Managing intrinsic cognitive load by segmenting content into small parts and using pretraining to teach concepts and facts separately(the segmenting principle).

  • Fosteringgermane cognitive load by adding practice activities andrelevant visuals(the modality principle) (Clark & Mayer, 2016).

There is no need to use all eleven principles to enhance students’learning. Specific design principles can be used indifferent situations,depending onteachers’ instructional objectives andstudents’ learning objectives.

E-learning theory is about designing educational technology use topromote effective learningby reducingextraneous cognitive load and managinggermane and intrinsic loadsat students’ appropriate levels.It can be challenging for teachers to design tasks at an appropriate level for students; thee-learning theorymodelcan help teachersunderstandhow cognitive load can be categorized andcombined with design principles to make effective learning with technology happen.

Clark, R.C., & Mayer, R.E. (2016).E-learning and the science of instruction: Proven guidelines for consumers and designers of multimedia learning(4thed.). John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Clark, R. C., Nguyen, F., &Sweller, J. (2005).Efficiency in learning: Evidence-basedguidelinestomanage cognitive load. Pfeiffer.

David, L. (2015, December). E-learning Theory (Mayer, Sweller, Moreno). Learning Theories. https://www.learning-theories.com/e-learning-theory-mayer-sweller-moreno.html.

(Video) Applying Learning Theories to Instructional Design & Learning Environments

E-learning theory. (2020, April 11). InWikipedia.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E-learning_(theory)

Kartal, G. (2010). Does language matter in multimedia learning? Personalization principle revisited. Journal of Educational Psychology, 102(3), 615.

Kurt, A.A. (2011). Personalizationprinciple inmultimedialearning: Conversationalversusformalstyle inwrittenword. TOJET: The Turkish Online Journal of Educational Technology, 10(3), 185-192.

Mayer, R. E. (1997). Multimedia learning: Are we asking the right questions? Educational Psychologist, 32(1), 1–19.

Mayer, R. (2003). Elements of a science ofe-learning. Journal of Educational Computing Research, 29(3), 297–313.

Mayer, R.E., Moreno, R., &Sweller, J. (2015). E-learning theory.https://www.learning-theories.com/e-learning-theory-mayer-sweller-moreno.html.

Mayer, R. E., & Moreno, R. (2003). Nine ways to reduce cognitive load in multimedia learning.Educational Psychologist, 38(1), 43-52.

Moreno, R. (2006). Does the modality principle hold for different media? A test of the method‐affects‐learning hypothesis. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 22(3), 149-158.

Moreno, R., & Mayer, R. (2007). Interactive multimodal learning environments.Educational Psychology Review,19(3), 309-326.

Sweller, J., Van Merriënboer, J. J. G., & Paas, F. (2019). Cognitive architecture and instructional design: 20 years later.Educational Psychology Review,31(2), 261–292.

(Video) Instructional Designing - Theories of Learning & Role of Educational Technology - Part I

Wang, V. C. (2012). Understanding and promoting learning theories.International Journal of Multidisciplinary Research and Modern Education,8(2), 343-347.


What is the theoretical basis of e-learning? ›

E-learning theory belongs to the grand theory of Connectivism because it emphasizes how technologies can be used and designed to create new learning opportunities and to promote effective learning.

What are the e-learning models? ›

Here are the most prevalent types of e-learning options available for your child:
  • Lesson-based learning.
  • One-on-one learning.
  • Group learning.
  • Course-based learning.
  • Video-based learning.
  • Article-based learning.
  • Self-paced learning.
  • App-based learning.
May 19, 2020

What are the 5 educational learning theories research and give a short explanation each of them? ›

There are five primary educational learning theories: behaviorism, cognitive, constructivism, humanism, and connectivism. Additional learning theories include transformative, social, and experiential.

What is effective eLearning and eTeaching a theoretical model? ›

The theoretical model of eLearning and eTeaching helps learners overcome barriers to success while parallel training based on the same principles prepares instructors to facilitate effective online learning experiences.

What are the 4 stages of eLearning? ›

A well-defined e-learning development process comprises four phases viz. Content analysis, developing a storyboard, developing a prototype, and course submission.

What are 3 types of e-learning? ›

Types of Online Learning
  • Asynchronous Online Courses. These types of course offerings do not take place in real–time. ...
  • Synchronous Online Courses. ...
  • Hybrid Courses. ...
  • Providing Continuity. ...
  • Distributing Materials. ...
  • Creating Content. ...
  • Curating Content. ...
  • Fostering Collaboration.

What are the 5 E's instructional model? ›

The findings of Atkin and Karplus directly informed the creation of the 5E Model, which focuses on allowing students to understand a concept over time through a series of established steps, or phases. These phases include Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate, and Evaluate.

What are the 4 models of effective teaching? ›

The 4 major teacher evaluation models and what they can do
  • The Value-Added Model (VAM) In basic terms, VAM measures how a certain teacher contributes to the progress of their students. ...
  • Teacher observations. ...
  • The Framework Model. ...
  • The Marzano Focused Teacher Evaluation Model.
Oct 29, 2018

What are the 7 learning theories in education? ›

The major concepts and theories of learning include behaviourist theories, cognitive psychology, constructivism, social constructivism, experiential learning, multiple intelligence, and situated learning theory and community of practice.

Which learning theory is best for teaching? ›

Transformative learning theory is a great approach for adult education and young adult learning. Also referred to as transformation learning, transformative learning theory focuses on the idea that learners can adjust their thinking based on new information.

How do you apply learning theories in the classroom? ›

Make Learning Meaningful and Relevant
  1. Ask meaningful questions that focus on the deeper meaning instead of the minor details.
  2. Give students opportunities to collaborate and learn from each other.
  3. Create meaningful activities that give students the opportunity to apply new knowledge.

What is the most effective learning method in online learning? ›

Lecture is perhaps the most prevalent instructional strategy used in higher education—on campus and online. Just as they would in a classroom, many online professors use lectures to transmit information, promote comprehension, and spark students' interests.

Which learning theory is best for online learning? ›

4 Learning Theories Every Online Educator Should Know
  1. Behaviorism: Learning is a product of stimulus and reinforcement. ...
  2. Cognitivism: Learning is a process of acquiring and structuring knowledge. ...
  3. Constructivism: Learning is passed down socially and through experiences.
Feb 3, 2021

What are the core elements of e-learning? ›

5 Elements Of An eLearning Course
  • Navigation. A stand-out eLearning course should have easy navigation, for example, menus; links; arrows; icons; and previous, next, and move to buttons. ...
  • Relevant Content. ...
  • Design And Visuals. ...
  • Interactivity. ...
  • Track Learners' Progress.
Mar 20, 2021

Who gave 5 eLearning models? ›

Who developed the 5E model? o The Biological Science Curriculum Study (BSCS), a team led by Principal Investigator Roger Bybee, developed the instructional model for constructivism, called the "Five Es". Other models have been adapted from this model including the 6E and 7E models.

What are the benefits of e-learning? ›

Top 10 Benefits of eLearning
  • E-learning Fully Adjusts to Your Needs. Online studying is designed to accommodate everyone's needs. ...
  • Reduced Cost. ...
  • Remote Approach To Various Classes. ...
  • Transfer Credits & Commuting. ...
  • Instant Career Advancement. ...
  • Quick Delivery. ...
  • Scalability. ...
  • Consistency & Teacher Scarcity.
Feb 22, 2021

What is e-learning and its benefits? ›

With elearning, students can learn at their own pace, from anywhere and at any time. Through delivery methods such as games and social media, elearning also makes the learning process more immersive and interactive. Moreover, elearning enables relatively faster delivery cycles.

What are the objectives of e-learning? ›

The Major Goals Of eLearning

Enhance the quality of learning and teaching. Meet the learning style or needs of students. Improve the efficiency and effectiveness. Improve user-accessibility and time flexibility to engage learners in the learning process.

What are the benefits of using 5 E model in classroom instruction? ›

One approach to inquiry science is the 5E instructional model (Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate, Evaluate). The 5E model is a planning tool for inquiry teaching that provides a structure for students to connect science ideas with their experiences and apply their learning to new contexts.

What does the E's stand for in 5E model of teaching? ›

Teaching and learning progresses through five phases: Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate and Evaluate.

What is an e learning cycle? ›

The 5 E Learning Cycle is a training framework that harnesses learners' curiosity in exactly this way. It encourages them to explore their own experience, and understand information in ways that resonate with them. As a result they can retain information – and apply it – more effectively.

Which teaching model is most effective? ›

According to the results of this study, the best teaching approach is the mixed method (student-centered together with teacher-centered) plus educational planning and previous readiness.

What are the main teaching models? ›

List Of Teaching Methods
  • Teacher-Centered Instruction. ...
  • Small Group Instruction. ...
  • Student-Centered / Constructivist Approach. ...
  • Project-Based Learning. ...
  • Montessori. ...
  • Inquiry-Based Learning. ...
  • Flipped Classroom. ...
  • Cooperative Learning.

What are the models and strategies of teaching? ›

Learning in the classroom can follow five different instructional models: direct, indirect, independent, experiential, and interactive. Explore each of these instructional models and discover the strengths and weaknesses of each as they are utilized in the classroom.

What is the most popular learning theory? ›

1. Behaviorist Learning Theory. Behaviorism is one of the classic learning theories; it predates cognitivism and most of the other theories we'll explore in this post. Behaviorism suggests that the learner is a 'blank slate' and that all human behavior can be caused or explained by external stimuli.

Why learning theories are important for teachers? ›

Learning theories are important because they allow teachers to understand how their students learn. Through using different learning methods, teachers can develop more comprehensive learning strategies and help students find success in education.

Which is the theoretical learning in classroom? ›

Learning theories are research-based ideas about how students learn. Behaviorism is learning theory that focuses on environmental factors including conditioned responses. Classical conditioning involves training students to respond to neutral stimuli, such as a hand clap.

What is the best way to describe learning theory? ›

A learning theory explains the different ways people learn by focusing on the internal and external influences that affect the learning process. The learning process can be complex and because of this, there are multiple theories to explain different approaches to learning.

How do you use theory in research examples? ›

Theories can be applied at many stages of quantitative and qualitative (and mixed) research processes, including: providing rationale for the study; defining the aim and research questions; considering the methodological stance; developing data collection and generation tools; providing a framework for data analysis, ...

Why is theory based learning important? ›

Why is learning theory important for educators? These theories are important because they help educators teach students new concepts and skills. They have impacted course curriculums, transformed how teachers instil knowledge in the classroom, and changed the way many parents explain things to their children.

What are the effectiveness of online learning to students? ›

5 Reasons Why Online Learning is More Effective
  • #1. Students learn more than they do in traditional courses. ...
  • #2. Retention rates are higher with online learning. ...
  • #3. Online learning requires less of a time investment. ...
  • #4. More frequent assessments can reduce distractions. ...
  • #5. eLearning is the greener option.

How can we improve eLearning process? ›

10 Ways Teachers Can Improve Their Elearning Courses
  1. Connect with Students Individually. ...
  2. Use a Learning Management System (LMS) and Other Elearning Tools. ...
  3. Create Multiple Online Course Modules. ...
  4. Use Multimedia and Game-Based Learning. ...
  5. Design Interactive Quizzes and Exercises. ...
  6. Utilize Social Media Platforms.
Apr 21, 2022

How effective is online learning and classroom learning? ›

Students Gain More Knowledge Than In Standard Classes

Because online courses provide students with full control over their studies, they can work at their own pace. Pupils, on average, work faster and absorb more information in online courses than they would otherwise.

What are the pros and challenges of e-learning? ›

Benefits & Challenges of Online Education
  • Variety of Courses. From nursing to neuroscience to certification as a life coach, e-learning has democratized education. ...
  • Value for Money. In India, it is a fact that many professors lack accountability. ...
  • Faculty Feedback. ...
  • Room for All. ...
  • Age no Bar. ...
  • World Classroom.
Oct 5, 2022

Why is e-learning better for students? ›

Online education enables the teacher and the student to set their own learning pace, and there's the added flexibility of setting a schedule that fits everyone's agenda. As a result, using an online educational platform allows for a better balance of work and studies, so there's no need to give anything up.

What are the most important characteristics of e-learning? ›

5 characteristics of a successful e-learning course
  • Focus on performance expectations. ...
  • Pleasant aesthetics. ...
  • Positive and not too formal language. ...
  • Interactivity and application of knowledge. ...
  • Clear learning objectives, coherent, targeted and simplified content.
Sep 18, 2019

What is e-learning theory summary? ›

E-learning theory is about designing educational technology use to promote effective learning by reducing extraneous cognitive load and managing germane and intrinsic loads at students' appropriate levels.

What do you think is the most positive effect of online learning? ›

Distance learning can encourage students to learn more independently wherever they are. Without continuous supervision from the teacher, students have the independence to carry out activities useful for their learning process, such as reading, practicing, repeating the material given, and many more.

Who developed the e-learning theory? ›

E-Learning Theory (Mayer, Sweller, Moreno)

Which learning theory is the basis for the E portfolio? ›

ePortfolios fall within a learning theory known as social constructivism, which proposes, in part, that learning happens most effectively when students construct systems of knowledge for themselves, rather than simply having information presented.

Which learning theory is for online learning? ›

Online collaborative learning (OCL) is a theory proposed by Linda Harasim that focuses on the facilities of the Internet to provide learning environments that foster collaboration and knowledge building.

What is a theoretical E? ›

Theory E is a hard approach to dealing with change that focuses on creating economic value for shareholders. It generally employed economic incentives to effectuate change.

What are the three major components of the principle focus of e learning? ›

They incorporate three key parameters: instructional delivery mode, time, and flexibility.

What is the importance of learning theories in online learning? ›

'OCL theory provides a model of learning in which students are encouraged and supported to work together to create knowledge: to invent, to explore ways to innovate, and, by so doing, to seek the conceptual knowledge needed to solve problems rather than recite what they think is the right answer.

Who made the e learning theory? ›

[26] This gave rise to dual-coding theory, first proposed by Allan Paivio and later applied to multimedia learning by Richard Mayer. According to Mayer,[3] separate channels of working memory process auditory and visual information during any lesson.

What is pedagogical model for e learning? ›

17 The pedagogical models in e-learning are open learning, distributed learning, learning communities, communities of practice, and knowledge building communities. ...

What is theoretical model in research? ›

A theoretical model is a framework that researchers create to structure a study process and plan how to approach a specific research inquiry. It can allow you to define the purpose of your research and develop an informed perspective.

What are the 4 types of research theories? ›

In this paper, I will discuss the four types of research theories – deductive, inductive, grounded, and axiomatic.

What is an example of theoretical terms? ›

A simple explanation of theoreticity says that a term is theoretical if and only if it refers to nonobservational entities. Paradigmatic examples of such entities are electrons, neutrinos, gravitational forces, genes etc.

What are the principles for successful e-learning? ›

6 Design Principles for eLearning
  • Multimedia Principle. For learning, using a combination of media types is more effective than using text alone. ...
  • Contiguity Principle. ...
  • Modality Principle. ...
  • Redundancy Principle. ...
  • Coherence Principle. ...
  • Personalization Principle.
Oct 12, 2017

What is e-learning pros and challenges? ›

Increased Access & Reach – E-learning can happen in any place, as long as there is a device and connectivity. A physical class requires the student to come to school but in this mode, the student can access lessons sitting anywhere in the world.


1. Session One Instructional Design Models and Theories
(UTO Training)
2. Theories in Distance Learning
(Lauren Rouly-White)
3. In Search of Theoretical Frameworks for E-Learning Instructional Design
4. The Main Learning Theories That Inform Higher Education's Approach to Online Learning
(Hannah Atkinson)
5. Theoretical Models
(International Statistical Genetics Workshop)
6. Theoretical Models related to behavior
(Thomas McIntyre)


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