August 12, 2014
A la Mode: Designing Individual eLearning Based on Learning Styles

A la Mode: Designing Individual eLearning Based on Learning Styles

By: Nina Tomaro

Any good instructional designer knows that learning is a personal experience. But the process of learning isn’t just about what someone sees or hears – it can encompass everything from energy level to posture and even eye movement. With these factors in mind, the idea of creating a truly personalized module based on learner behavior and individual learning methods sounds practically impossible. And, since you don’t have time to create a from-scratch personal module for every learner, you’ll need to offer a personal experience by finding out how individuals learn and creating a module with customization in mind.

Types of Learners

Technically, researchers have identified some 30-odd different types of learning styles. But to keep your sanity, focus on the four main methods for learning: Visual, auditory, verbal, and kinesthetic (hands on). It should also be noted that most learners may have one method that they gravitate toward, but nearly all use a combination of several styles at once.

We really have no idea why certain individuals prefer to learn in a specific way. In fact, a group of psychologists at UCLA concluded that the evidence for learning styles was so weak that the idea of concrete learning styles is probably just a theory and nothing more.

Still, there’s something to be said for respecting your learners’ preferences to make your module more enjoyable and impactful. With the main learning types in mind, your course can then be designed around offering the most inclusive experience for learners, incorporating components such as videos, simulation, podcasts and of course, text.

Using Multimedia

Consider multimedia your best friend when it comes to creating modules that satisfy every type of learner. Which presentation would you rather experience: One that offers a wall of text, or one that offers a video and a post-experience quiz? The second one engages more learners, while the first only takes one type in mind. Multimedia is the simplest way to take all types of learning into account with one module.

Individualizing eLearning Modules

Customization options can make learners experience a more individualized approach to learning – even if they’re all experiencing the same module. When designing a program, keep choices in mind: While all learners are undergoing the same process, their experience doesn’t have to be the same.

An option to skip or repeat certain chapters, for example, can help create a customized module for students who learn differently than their colleagues. Or, offer options for practice: Some learners might appreciate reading a case study, while others prefer a simulation. Making sure you have at least two ways to practice or absorb the material means you can cater to more than just one type of learner at a time.

Of course, solid feedback in the way of in-course actions and post-course questions might be the best way to see if you’ve covered all of your bases. By creating modules with options, media and the potential for customization, you respect the learner – and let him lead.

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