Learning Styles Discussion from ELT 7003 at NCU - Instructional Design and Engaging e-Learning Activities

Successful learning in the traditional classroom or the e-classroom is predicated upon effective teaching methods which focus learning activities to meet the myriad of learning styles of learners participating in the learning experience (Broadbent, 2002). Smith (2000) further described e-learning as a way of learning which requires the instructor to “reach out to the learners, and find out where they are in their learning styles and preference and needs, and make the learning applicable” (p. 4). Collaborative learning activities designed to deliver content in multiple ways is one way to reach out and meet the diverse learning styles which exist in the traditional and e-classroom. According to Orey (2001) collaborative and interactive learning activities provide meaningful learning experiences and that learners judged the learning outcomes as superior to the traditional classroom the more collaborative the e-learning experience.

The learning styles described by David Kolb as conveyed by Broadbent (2002) are (a) convergers – learners who perceive information abstractly and process it reflectively; (b) divergers – wherein learners acquire information through intuitive; (c) assimilators – learners create theoretical models and reason deductively; and (d) accommodators – dynamic learners who relish change, risk taking, and flexibility. The challenge for faculty is how to develop creative collaborative learning activities which meet the needs of learners and the diverse learning styles of all participants (Conrad & Donaldson, 2004). To create such activities requires faculty to build a sense of community and to build trust amongst classmates and the instructor.

The development of learning activities which build a sense of community and are designed to meet multiple learning styles takes more time in the online environment and is made more difficult by the inability of classmates and the instructor to observe non-verbal behavior (Broadbent, 2002). The role of the online instructor must be focused on how to appropriately design the learning activities as the instructor must be able to facilitate the learning process using technology which is less flexible than the traditional classroom (Broadbent, 2002). Another key element to collaborative learning is for an instructor to encourage learners to evaluate their own and their teammates’ performance (Palloff & Pratt, 2001). Peer evaluations require trust among classmates and the instructor once again highlighting the necessity to build a strong sense of community through appropriate learning activities. A successful e-learning course is one in which faculty design collaborative learning activities for all types of learning styles and take the time to get to know the learner as soon as possible through appropriate learning activities which “provide insight into who the learner is not only academically but professionally and personally” (Conrad & Donaldson, 2004, p. 19).

References:

Broadbent, B. (2002). ABCs of e-learning: Reaping the benefits and avoiding the pitfalls. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass/Pfeiffer.

Conrad, R., & Donaldson, J. (2004). Engaging the online learner: Activities and resources for creative instruction. San Francisco, CA:
Jossey-Bass.

Orey, M.(Ed.). (2001). Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology. Retrieved October 6, 2010, from http://projects.coe.uga.edu/epltt/

Palloff, R., & Pratt, K. (2001). Lessons from the cyberspace classroom: The realities of online teaching. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Smith, J. (2000). Converting courses to online (Occasional Paper No. 19). Washington, DC: Distance Education and Training Council.