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Gagné, Constructivism, and eLearning

Designing an eLearning Lesson Using Gagné’s Nine Events of
Instruction and Constructivist Principles

Purdue University
EDCI 531

Esther Garrison

Gagné, Constructivism, and eLearning
Introduction
Within this project I attempt to use resources from the EDCI 531 course
as well as outside literature, research, and my own experience to
outline how an IDer can develop an online lesson using constructivist
principles. The practice of eLearning is still in an immature state
regarding best practices and learning environments. It seems that the
educational theory of constructivism is a perfect fit when attempting to
design quality, engaging eLearning content. While keeping
constructivist principles at the forefront of the design process, this
paper will sketch how to develop an eLearning lesson using Gagné’s
nine events as the platform (Driscoll, 2005). Woven throughout this
development process is the constructivism learning theory. I will refer
to recent research regarding the design of eLearning instruction using
constructivism.
Literature Review
I was pleasantly surprised to find so many articles about constructivism
and eLearning. It seems that the two balance each other well. Hung
and Nichani (2000) encourage a learning environment online where
learner “expertise and perspectives are mutually complemented and
valued.” This could take shape using discussion boards as the format,
where learners are in a “social” setting as well as a cognitive one. In
their paper, Hung and Nichani attempt to balance the two extremes of

Gagné, Constructivism, and eLearning
cognitive learning and social learning within the constructivism
learning theory.
Koohang, Riley, Schreurs, and Smith (2009) say that research shows
constructivism is a “good fit” for online learning as it ensures “learning
among learners”. Students are actively constructing their own
knowledge and are not seen as “passive” learners. This philosophy
influences the design of instruction for an online environment,
encouraging the application of engaging online interactions. Within
their paper, Koohang et al. also take time to list characteristics of
constructivism learning theory, which I will include within my lesson
design. I also pull ideas from an article that researched student
satisfaction with eLearning and Blackboard (Liaw, 2007).
Application
Below I’ve developed an eLearning lesson using Gagne’s nine events
presented by Driscoll. As I build the lesson and express it below you
will notice how the constructivism learning theory is weaved in and out
of the entire design.
Event 1: Gaining Attention:
A course that is online does not have the luxury of face-to-face
interaction, verbal cues given by the instructor, or synchronous
learning and discussions from the students. To gain “attention” in an
online setting would be equivalent of engaging the student through an
announcement in big, bold font on the course’s LMS. Because

Gagné, Constructivism, and eLearning
constructivism is student-led and mediated learning, gaining attention
from the learners may not be necessary from the instructor’s
standpoint as much as encouraging participation of the students.
Event 2: Informing learners of the objectives:
Koohang et al. (2009) present Murphy’s list of constructivism
characteristics, and Murphy would say that, “Goals and objectives are
derived by the student or in negotiation with the teacher or system.”
The Koohang et al. study adapted an instructional model, created by
Alex Koohang, in their design process. Koohang would also suggest
having “learner’s driven goals and objectives”. This design strategy
would best be approached by starting an open forum that lays out the
general course objectives in terms of units and allowing the students to
share and discuss their vision for the course. Students could be asked
to share what skills and knowledge they hope to acquire in that
particular course, being asked to phrase them as objectives or goals.
Then the class can take their shared ideas and formulate a combined
course goals and objectives.
Event 3: Stimulating recall of prior knowledge:
Driscoll (2005) encourages instructional designers to “prepare learners
for encoding or transfer… assist them in recalling relevant and
prerequisite information.” This could be a challenging task within an
eLearning environment. I would suggest having students construct a
virtual K-W-L chart (Appendix A). Before each unit student could update

Gagné, Constructivism, and eLearning
this chart, adding what they’ve “Learned” in the previous unit and
adding what they “Know” about the new topic. Or you could choose for
students to develop new KWL charts each unit. The “what I Want to
know” section is similar to students developing their own objectives. I
could see doing event two and three together.
Event 4: Presenting the Content:
A staple of constructivism and the learner-centered model is
encouraging students to construct their own knowledge, mediate their
own learning, and problem solve within real-world situations (Koohang
et al., 2009). Presenting content online can also be challenging, as it’s
a struggle to not bore your students to death. In order for students to
have the opportunity to construct their own knowledge I recommend
supplying fill-in-the-blank notes that go along with some sort of
presentation (i.e. PowerPoint, Prezi, YouTube video, an infographic, etc.)
or text (textbook reading, article, etc.). Once students have a resource
to support them and basic knowledge of the topic, start to fuse event
four (presenting content) with event five (guided learning). For me it is
hard to separate the two. It is best to allow students to construct their
learning through some activity that involves collaboration, exploration,
and social negotiation among learners (2009).
Event 5: Providing learning guidance:
As Driscoll (2009) puts it, “… instructional activities should promote
the entry of what is to be learned into long-term memory in a

Gagné, Constructivism, and eLearning
meaningful way.” The key in this event is to make the activity
meaningful. A lot of teachers in a brick-and-mortar setting use
worksheets at this time to “guide” learning. But worksheets are boring,
usually don’t require higher-order thinking, and aren’t very meaningful.
Instead the eLearning environment offers a new realm of studentcentered activities. In a case study about Blackboard and student
satisfaction, one complaint coming from the student perspective is the
lack of interpersonal relationships and interactions with fellow
classmates as well as the instructor (Liaw, 2007). I believe
interpersonal interaction is a staple of effective eLearning. To
encourage this through an online setting instructors should offer
engaging, interactive discourse via discussion boards, offer group work
within the discussion boards as well as on other assignments
throughout the course, and even use video to present content and
assignments so students feel more connected to their instructor. A
document providing samples of effective discussion questions can be
found in Appendix B.
Event 6: Eliciting performance:
This is the moment when instructors are looking for their students to
confirm their learning (Driscoll, 2005). Students need to illustrate the
knowledge they were able to construct through the content delivery
and collaboration with classmates on discussion boards. For an
eLearning environment this is where students work independently or in

Gagné, Constructivism, and eLearning
groups to display their new knowledge. A student’s product may be a
paper (but I don’t suggest this), a project, an infographic, a video, or
even student choice. Students enjoy the freedom and lack of creative
constraints when working online (Liaw, 2007), so the instructor should
consider student preference when designing an assignment or
assessment. Appendix C shows various resources and tools instructors
can use outside the typical essay or research paper assignment.
Event 7: Providing feedback:
According to Driscoll (2005), feedback should help reveal to learners
how best to improve their current skill level. In an online, eLearning
setting this must be initiated from the instructor and within a timely
manner. It is disappointing, from the student perspective, when an
assignment which required time and effort has been submitted and
there is very little feedback accompanying the grade. However
feedback doesn’t just occur when assignments are submitted. It is
sprinkled throughout the entire learning process. As Berge (2002) so
succinctly puts it:
“The goals of feedback in eLearning include:
- Ensuring accuracy of content acquisition, performance, and
understanding.
- Providing guidance, coaching, and modeling of the learning
goals.
- Facilitating social interchange and building relationships.
- Increasing student motivation and maintain the focus of the
learning
activities.”
It is important to note that feedback can take place between instructorstudent, student-instructor, and student-student.

Gagné, Constructivism, and eLearning
Event 8: Assessing performance:
This is simply the event where instructors want to know how much
learning has taken place and if the content, whatever that may be, as
been well learned (Driscoll, 2005). Assessments on an online platform
would vary depending on the course and content. In secondary
education or a training course, assessment would be an end-of-unit
quiz or exam or training quiz. We see many times in post-secondary
education that assessments are in the form of a project or portfolio. No
matter the medium of assessment, the goal during this event is to
evaluate the learner and their knowledge.
For quick informal assessment I recommend using a polling app on the
LMS already in use or using some of the sites listed in Appendix D.
Event 9: Enhancing retention and transfer:
Although this is listed as the last event, activities to enhance student
retention and transfer of content are generally built into the entire
learning process but maybe more so in the guided learning event
(Driscoll, 2005). Retention and transfer are encouraged through more
student-centered learning with the content. Instructors can utilize
discussion boards here, encouraging transfer of content to real-world
scenarios. An instructor should think of role-playing questions or
prompts for students to engage with, or assignments using tools I
suggested to actively learn the content.

Gagné, Constructivism, and eLearning
Conclusion
Constructivism is a learning theory that very much complements the
eLearning process by allowing students the freedom and resources to
construct their own knowledge. Using Gagné’s nine instructional
events, the design of an eLearning lesson flows similarly to a face-toface lesson but offers the learner a more individualized learning
process; so students can work at their own pace, engage in dialogue
with fellow students in an on-going way, and reflect as they participate
in the course content.

Gagné, Constructivism, and eLearning

Appendix A

Appendix B
Sample discussion board questions
Appendix C
-This website provides all sorts of student-centered tools.
- Here is a web 2.0 website that also shares cutting-edge technology
tools for online education.
- One of my personal favorites, Blendspace.
Appendix D
Informal assessment sites/tools:
Socrative
Quizlet
Google Forms
Poll Everywhere

Gagné, Constructivism, and eLearning

References
Berge, A. (2002). Active, interactive, and reflective eLearning. The
Quarterly Review of Distance Education. 3.2.
Driscoll, Marcy (2005). Psychology of learning for instruction (3rd ed.).
Needham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon.
Hung, D. and Nichani, M. (2000). Constructivism and e-learning:
Balancing between the individual and social levels of cognition. ERAAME-AMIC Joint Conference. Singapore.
Koohang, Riley, Schreurs, and Smith. (2009). E-Learning and
Constructivism: From Theory to Application, Interdisciplinary Journal of
E-Learning and Learning Objects, 5(91-109).
Liaw, S. (2007). Investigating students’ perceived satisfaction,
behavioral intention, and effectiveness of e-learning: A case study of
the Blackboard system, Computers and Education, 51(864-873).
Sample Discussion Board Questions that Work, McMurray University, 
http://www.mcm.edu/elearning/Tutorials/PDF/Discussion_Questions_That_Work.pdf