IT Teaching Resources

Social learning theory and web-based learning environments

An analysis of social learning pedagogical models and how they can be used to design technology-mediated teaching

Article Research Promising practices

Title: Social Learning Theory and Web-Based Learning Environments: A Review of Research and Discussion of Implications
Authors: Janette R. Hill, Liyan Song, and Richard E. West

Key points

  • In Biesenbach-Lucas’s (2003) study of nonnative speakers, participants indicated that asynchronous discussions helped facilitate assimilation of the course content
  • Asynchronous discussions may give students more time to reflect, which can be particularly valuable among learners with limited synchronous, real-time language fluency
  • Several factors influence teaching and learning per social learning perspectives: context, culture and community, and learner characteristics

Since the 1970s, cognitive psychological perspectives have dominated pedagogical frameworks and models for designing technology-mediated teaching and learning environments. More recently, social learning perspectives have received attention as viable or even desirable frames for research and practice related to teaching and learning, particularly in Web-based learning environments (WBLEs). In this article, the authors analyze these social learning perspectives and how they can be used in the design and implementation of online learning. This review and analysis of the research related to social learning perspectives on WBLEs provides several implications for future research and practice: (1) examining learners’ individual characteristics in WBLEs, (2) identifying strategies for promoting social interaction in WBLEs, and (3) developing effective design principles for WBLEs.

What would this look like in a course?
  • Incorporate more social interaction among students and the instructors into the course as it plays a significant role in students’ sense of learning community.
  • Consider adding group collaboration projects or tasks as these activities can promote students’ learning in web-based learning environments.
  • Implement social interaction in other forms that can provide a safe and welcoming space that students can use different facial expressions, body language, and tone of voice.

Hill, J. R., Song, L., & West, R. E. (2009). Social learning theory and web-based learning environments: A review of research and discussion of implications. The Amer. Jrnl. of Distance Education23(2), 88-103.