The Zen of Design and Learning Styles

Today’s Z(e)n Learning moment  is about learning styles. Wait! Don’t leave. I know that learning styles have been talked to death: which theory to use or not use, how to develop e-learning to incorporate it, my learning style is better than your learning style. In the middle of the roaring tide of developing e-learning for our learners, we forget a very important concept.

Humans adapt their environment to suit their needs.

Interesting concept, is it not? We’ve been doing it for millenia basically in the form of social learning. We create tools to make life easier and depending upon the environment, the tools and culture differ.

Now, how does that apply to learning styles and design? If I develop a course that is text based, those who support the various learning styles may cry foul. What about the auditory or tactile learners? Or the converger, divergers, assimilators, and accomodaters? Think about the children!

I am, actually, because I believe that a learner will adapt that text only information to suit their learning style and needs. How? Screen readers, tactile graphics, scanning/reading software, video captioning, voice recognition programs to name a few. While these are meant for people with various disabilities, anyone can use them in conjunction with how they believe they learn best. The fact that these tools exist only underscores my point about adaptability.

When I design, one thing I keep in mind is that no one learns in the same way. Do I bend myself over backwards to incorporate every type of learning and personality style available? No because it would be impossible to do so. My focus is on developing excellent and spot-on content ,i.e. outcome-based information, for that particular course.

However, I am aware of that learners access information in a variety of ways and design accordingly. Text documents typically have images incorporated into them and are supported by videos and podcasts when needed (none of which I produce, by the way, I link to fabulous resources available on the Internet for that). Activities cover a wide variety of types from Internet research to getting out the chair and dancing around (yes, I actually had them do that in a course I designed!). Small and large group work is included as well.

Design is zen. I contemplate and then on  a moment of inspiration, I act. I don’t worry about learning styles because I don’t have to. Humans will find a way to learn, if they want to, no matter how I much effort I put into the design.

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