I feel that people learn best when they are relaxed and supported. In order for that to occur, they need to be in an environment in which they trust those around them, whether it be a face-to-face or online setting. So I believe the sense of a trusting and supporting community should be established before learners are able to branch out and find what works for them. "...in distance education, attention needs to be paid to the developing sense of community within the group of participants in order for the learning process to be successful" (Palloff & Pratt, 2007, p. 40).
At this point, students are able to explore or implement the appropriate strategy to meet their needs. Learning theory would not exist if not for the matter that people learn differently. Every learner will not succeed with solely behaviorist strategies, solely cognitive strategies, or solely constructivist strategies. Content needs to be presented in a variety of forms to meet the needs of diverse students. Learners can then choose the appropriate strategy to meet their needs.
Effective instruction is informed by theories of learning, whether face-to-face or online. They help the instructor to determine the needs of his/her students and then assign the appropriate materials for the learners to select from. In designing a course, a combination of theories, from behaviorist to emerging theories like connectivism, should be used to develop materials. "Strategies should be selected to motivate learners, facilitate deep processing, build the whole person, cater to individual differences, promote meaningful learning, encourage interaction, provide relevant feedback, facilitate contextual learning, and provide support during the learning process" (Ally, 2008, pp. 18-19). Learning theory should help in providing diversity to learners as they represent a wide array of learning cultures, styles, and motivations.
Driscoll, M. P. (2005). Psychology of learning for instruction (3rd ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson
Palloff, R. M., & Pratt, K. (2007). Building online learning communities: Effective strategies for the virtual classroom. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.