The term learning style refers to a person’s preferred way of learning new content. When teaching a group of learners, you might find that some learners prefer to watch a demonstration, some prefer to talk about the material, and others prefer to take a hands-on approach. Understanding the differences between learning styles and how to appeal to each are the keys to creating excellent training.
What are the different learning styles?
There are three main learning styles: visual, auditory, and kinesthetic.
- Visual learners prefer to see information organized in diagrams, pictures, or watch a video demonstration. For visual learners, lectures are not effective at helping them connect information — the need to visualize the data to connect concepts and ideas. In an online course, you can use multimedia to meet some of these needs. Embed demonstration videos, infographics, or diagrams to engage visual learners.
- Auditory learners prefer to listen to lectures, engage in discussion, or read out loud. Auditory learners do not make meaning from the written word. They make sense of information by talking about it. Even just listening to background music can help auditory learners process information more efficiently.
- Kinesthetic learners learn through hands-on practice. These learners enjoy the process of learning by discovering. They need to be engaged in a physical task while absorbing information. In an online setting, kinesthetic learners can benefit from exercises that require click and dragging, diagramming, or performing an action.
Learning styles can be assessed by taking a Learning Style Inventory. It is a good idea to make sure learners know their learning style. Have learners take any one of several free online Learning Style Inventories. This will help learners focus their study efforts toward more effective techniques.
How can you design for all learning styles?
Appealing to three different learning styles in an online course might seem overwhelming, but there is a simple way to make sure everyone gets what they need. Make sure every piece of content you create has a picture, a sound, and a practice component. This will not only engage learners of each learning style, but it will also help all learners through repetition. For example, if a lecture video is included, attaching a transcript will not only help a visual learner, but it could also help an auditory learner.
A transcript might be helpful if he or she needs the correct spelling of a term, or if he or she wants to have a way of reviewing the material offline. Right after the video or audio-visual demonstration, allow learners to practice what was taught. Present a case-study, incorporate interactive learning content that requires decision making, or instruct learners to create something offline. This method of instruction also aligns with Bloom’s Taxonomy, which dictates evaluating and creating are the highest levels of learning.
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