Learning Styles and eLearning

Learning Styles - (considerations for you as a learner and facilitator)
Knowing a little bit about learning styles can help you determine if online learning is for you. The interaction and delivery methods used in online classes are dramatically different from traditional classes, so understanding how you learn is a good part of the decision-making process. The knowledge can help you improve your study habits and be successful in any educational setting, regardless of what type of learner you are.

MUSINGS...(Ideas and discussion) < The published version is below. Jeff Stokes > I don't think its just about learning styles. I believe the decision to use e-Learning is also about the needs of the learner and logistical conditions in which the learner finds themself. I taught in a Corrective Services institution. Simulations were used, not because they suited the learning style of the students, but because we couldn't have any sharp tools. The content was less than ideal. It was a compromise but remained the best choice. The considerationsother than learning style that I'm talking about might include: Access, location, language, intellectual disability, social incapacity, physical handicap,... the list could go on. What do you think? OK.... so I'm using this wiki like a Blog. There are no rules in cyberspace!!! C'mon Judy. What do you think? < /Jeff Stokes >

I agree it's not all about learning styles - but it's one component of learning that is worth considering. There a a few different theories which possibly all boil down to the same thing: people learn in different ways, and different combinations of those ways .I think we should consider that when we prepare our (e)teaching.

I've added some more stuff at the end - I wasn't quite sure how this page should worked either. - Judy


Learning Styles and e-learning

There is an addage that used to be used in and about education systems around the world; "There are teachers and there are teachers." This reflection on the variance in teachers' capacity and style was valid, I suppose, in one sense. People saw that the experience of the learner had a lot to do with what the teacher brought to the classroom. In recent decades, teachers have become more aware of cognitive theory, modes of learning and the value of flexibility. In effect, they bring much more to the classroom. Modern teachers are more versatile, better informed and, generally, better equipped and supported. They are not limited by their natural disposition to teach using a narrow set of modes or methods. As teachers become more experienced at using a variety of tools it becomes possible to begin to measure the impact of that variety on learners. Studies have been conducted that define learning styles and the types of learning experiences that are suited to different learners.

Basically, with the focus now firmly on the student, the addage has become, "There are learners and there are learners". Don't think that this is a criticism. It is simply a recognition of the very real variance in the capacity and style of learners.

There is general agreement that three major classifications can be defined:

Visual: Watching (Inherently passive)
Auditory: Listening and Talking (Sometimes just listening)
Kinesthetic: Doing (Inherently active)

Not everone agrees. In a paper by D A Kolb of Murdoch University, he defines the following learning styles:

Accomodator: Concrete and Active - "Try it and see" - Experience first and then form a theoretical model (Aligned to constructivism)
Converger: Abstract and Active - Form a theory first and then test it. (Very much the way mathematicians and engineers work and learn)
Diverger: Concrete and Reflective - Learning is a more imagiative and emotive process (Learning is personal with high levels of interaction )
Assimilator: Abstract and Reflective - Strong inductive and creative reasoning (Learning is more personal, in a closed 'in your head' kind of way)

LINK: http://www.it.murdoch.edu.au/~s980606e/t_l_research/learning.html

Other academics profess that there are two major types: Extrovert and Introvert, with several sub-classes. The fact is, even when you've decided whose definitions you want to use, it isn't as simple as just choosing one of these. In an article by NCVER researchers, co-author Peter Smith writes;
I like to learn about historical events by listening to someone speak, by watching adocumentary presentation or a docu-drama, and I also like to learn through reading and discussing with others. Most of these ways of learning history are, as you can see, ratherpassive and are represented in verbal or visual ways. But I don’t want to learn how to cast a fishing rod in those ways. Then I want someone to demonstrate and tell me (visual and verbal again) but, more importantly, then I want to try it for myself and have someone tell me where I have gone right or wrong. So I want to be hands-on with some verbal critique and discussion. You can see I am quite verbal in my learning style, but I also like a social context
as well.

Peter Smith

LINK: http://www.ncver.edu.au/research/proj/nd3103b.pdf

Is Peter confused or is it normal for people to adopt different learning styles in different contexts? The article suggests that, like Peter, others prefer a tactile (Kinesthetic) approach when learning practical skills. I think it makes perfect sense.

You can do an online test to see what learning style or styles you prefer. Why? So that you can pursue courses and other opportunities where the structure or presentation supports those styles.

LINK: http://www.ldpride.net/learning-style-test.html

What has all this got to do with e-Learning?

e-Learning is about applying a very wide range of technology based teaching and learning tools to add choice or access for students. With such a range of tools and delivery modes available through technology it can be possible to match the sorts of learning environments and activities available to the very individual needs or preferences of students.

It is possible for one student to achieve success with a set of resources where another student, just as capable, might have little success.

Q: Does that mean we develop individual learning programmes for each student? A: Perhaps.
Q: Does it mean that we generate a variety of options and activities that complement each other? A: Very likely
Q: Does it mean that we must, at the very least, be aware of the needs of individuals? A: Certainly

What do we recommend is the answer? The answer is that there is no one answer! If we apply this premise to e-learning tools specifically, we are really saying that Moodle won't work for everybody. Adobe Connect, though it is a powerful and versatile tool, can't do everything for everybody.

Imagine a car with a flat tyre. It is a european car (not that I have anything against them). A local mechanic is called and is more than willing to help out. He brings with him his tool for changing tyres. His one tool! You understand where I'm going with this story. No matter how much effort he invests in trying to remove the wheel, if the tool doesn't fit that effort is wasted and both parties are unhappy. Neither are at fault really. The mechanic just needs to get a better range of tools.

He's a mechanic. He won't have trouble working out what tool to use once he has them at his fingertips. I guess that's what we are saying about educators. The most difficult part will be equipping ourselves. You know that, I suppose. That's why you're right here, on this page.

Jeff Stokes and Judith Baker

Considering learning styles is a really interesting and useful exercise. It reminds us yet again how different students are from one another and that they learn in different ways. It helps us remember not to get hooked on our favourite technology. I like showing movies in my class, but I know not all the students are so keen. Some language students just want to listen to the teacher talk.

There are indeed a few different theories of learning styles. I started off this exploration trying to match the learner style to the elearning technology: the audiovisual (especially) tend to be passive e.g. reading, listening, watching movies and graphics may suit them; the kinesthetic learner tends to be the more active learning style, so perhaps chat, Skype, Connect, Twitter, virtual learning etc would engage them.

In a traditional classroom you may learn, apply and practice (sometimes simulated, sometimes authentic). But practice can’t always be done in an online classroom. A lot of online learning tends to be passive: reading, listening to audio, watching video. The ‘Doing’ and ‘Putting into practice‘ often have to be done outside the online environment.

There is yet another theory of learning styles. The Reflector, Theorist, Activist, Pragmatist Theory (Honey and Mumford, 1980) suggests there are 4 types of learners. Briefly, they are:
Reflector – likes to watch, think, learns from listening, reviewing. Dislikes spontaneous discussion, needs time to formulate opinions.
Theorist - learns by dealing with models and theories. Dislikes open ended questions, needs a purpose
Activist – likes new experiences, challenges, discussions, workshops, role-plays, likes to be the centre of attention. Dislikes lectures and reading.
Pragmatist – enjoys relating theory to practice, projects, problem solving. Dislikes theoretical discussion and debates.
Find out what type you are: Link to Test

It would be realistic to expect a range of learner types in our courses. From this point of view there are going to be learners for whom using, for example, Skype, chat or Connect is not as effective as reading text, or listening to a pod cast – and vice versa, and all other combinations. So, considering the potential elearning styles of students could guide both teachers and elearning designers to design and include a variety of technologies and activities in their program.
In conclusion, an elearning program needs a variety of task types and modes to cover all bases.

I found all of this information interesting and informative. The analogy of the motor mechanic was particularly applicable to me - the message there being to have a range of tools to suit different learning styles at your disposal ready to go and being comfortable with each of the tools. From an e-learning perspective the message that came through to me is that we need to provide a variety of activities essentially delivering the same message. eg a short video on how to change a flat tyre, a dot point procedure on how to change a flat tyre and a hands on practical exercise on changing a flat tyre at the next F2F session. Thank you Judy and Jeff. Zifo

Judy and Jeff you have covered the topic on different learning styles and how they might affect elearning design in great detail and like Zifo I found the information very interesting and informative. You provided an excellent example (motor mechanic) how one elearning tool does not suit all learners and that we must have a variety of tools if we are to engage all students - after all we all learn differently. Ena

Judy and Jeff to complete this activity you need to reflect on the completed work of the other teams. Ena