What do you get when you combine an infamously popular learning theory and the infinite possibilities of the Internet? Experts agree that what you have is the key to creating the optimal online learning experience.

What is the Learning Pyramid?

Met with equal measures of recognition and scepticism, the Learning Pyramid is probably the most controversial learning theory among education experts.

Created by Edgar Dale from the National Training Laboratories (NTL), the Learning Pyramid is an arrangement of instructional strategies according to the average retention rate. Simply put, it rates teaching techniques based on how effective they are in making students remember what they learned.

While there are many adaptations of Dale’s original, the basic structure of the pyramid starts with the least effective to the most effective method. Lecture is at the top, followed by Reading, Audio-Visual, Demonstration, Discussion Group, Practice by Doing, and finally, at the base, Teaching Others.

At this point, you might be wondering what made it the topic of heated debates, right? Because, it does make sense. Various studies have confirmed that active learning help students get better grades as compared to passive learning.

In fact, a comprehensive study conducted by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) shows that students learning through lecture alone are 1.5 time more likely to fail their course as compared to students taught using active learning techniques.

But it has also been slammed because of its poorly designed research methodology that don’t address certain key points (i.e. What type of material was studied? What were the age of participants? What type of test were given to determine retention? How did they come up with such clear percentages?) to satisfy its critics.

Despite its polarizing effect among educators, the Learning Pyramid remains an important learning theory, where gains towards better retention, and ultimately, better learning can be achieved.

What is Basic Online Learning?

Latest data from the Babson Survey Research Group’s Online Report Card: Tracking Online Education in the United States reveals, that, there are close to 6 million students currently taking at least one online learning course.

In its simplest, Online Learning is a form of learning where lessons are delivered online and accessed using a computer and an Internet connection. Which means you won’t be in the same physical space as your instructor or classmates during lessons.

So, you can be in your room, your favorite cafe, or in a beach halfway around the world, and you’ll still be able to take lessons. This quality of not being confined in a traditional classroom is the major appeal of online learning courses, especially to post-secondary learners or professionals who have busy schedules.

But, if you’re thinking that online learning is just watching your computer screen for hours, the good news is, it’s not. Most online learning programs now take advantage of new technology to engage students. Some even predict that soon virtual reality technology will be used in online learning course to simulate the face-to-face classroom experience.

How Effective is the Learning Pyramid in Online Learning?

Because online learning is still viewed as somewhat secondary to a typical classroom set-up, it’s still met with much apprehension from potential enrollees. Making them miss out on the benefits of self-paced, quality education as confirmed by the US Department of Education.

In their 12-year long-term study, they found that students engaged in online learning, performed much better than those learning through face-to-face instruction. But, they also agree that results can be further improved if elements of online learning are combined with traditional classroom learning techniques.

For example, instructors can refer to the Learning Pyramid as a guide when creating a syllabus for their course – adding activities such as quizzes, participating in discussion forums, and making presentations – to increase information retention of their students.

They can then make lessons more engaging by utilizing the multitude of tools and platforms offered by the Internet to maximize every student’s learning potential, encouraging active learning by using YouTube for audio-visual presentations or creating how-to blogs to teach others.

Educators should look at a platform like TruAcademy which includes a robust learning management system that allows educators to upload customized quizzes at the end of every lesson, create discussion groups to foster collaboration, and one-on-one consultations with instructors using Skype.

Using a capable online education platform that can seamlessly put learning theories into action via modern technology, not only results in a more engaging and enjoyable class for students, but better returns for your online education business.

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