I brought this question to
the conference because I have heard that one advantage of online materials
is the ability to present course content in many different forms, to appeal
to multiple learning styles. I have even shared this idea with my instructors
during training seminars. Recently, I started wondering if such an attempt
is truly a good idea and if it's even possible, given faculty workloads.
Some of the questions our group
- How can we appeal to all
learning styles in one online course?
- Should we appeal to multiple
learning styles in one course by using online materials?
- What are the best ways provide
assignments, information, lectures, that appeal to different styles?
- Are there specific classes
or types of classes in which this would work best?
Key issues of consensus
We agreed on a basic definition
of learning style: Strengths an individual has and brings to the
learning environment. The way a person takes in knowledge and interacts
with and constructs that knowledge.
One's styles are based on one's
strengths and weaknesses. The online environment provides opportunities
for presenting similar content in various ways. For example, instructors
can offer extra or extended examples, analogies, and/or additional modes
of explanation for which there just is not enough time in class.
It is both easier and more
difficult to address multiple intelligences. Some of the things that are
- Can provide multiple assignments
without handing out or discussing every one in class.
- Less boring to share papers
- Multiple discussion threads
are simple to implement.
- Can present material in
multiple formats "at once."
On the more difficult side:
- It takes time and effort
to create additional materials.
should be provided in advance, so there is less room for "thinking
on the fly."
- If you change and update
the class from semester to semester, you have that much
more to change.
- You cannot accommodate all
learning styles within every part of the class, and you should not have
Students should stretch their weaknesses. They do not need everything
to be offered in their individual style.
- Some styles are "inherent"
in or extremely easy to address online: visual, linguistic, interpersonal,
intrapersonal. We should focus on the harder ones: musical, bodily-kinesthetic,
naturalistic, spatial. These are the things you just cannot easily do
sitting in front of the computer screen. (These are
the eight multiple intelligences of Howard Gardner.)
- Instructors need assistance
from instructional designers to develop materials. Some online resources
for finding materials include MERLOT (http://www.merlot.org),
MIT's OpenCourseWare (http://web.mit.edu/ocw/),
University of Southern Queensland (http://www.usqonline.com.au/),
wNET School (http://www.thirteen.org/teach/index.html).
Areas Where Consensus Was
Participants did not come
to agreement on the following issue:
- Should the instructor adapt
to the students or should the students adapt to the instructor?
Suggestions for Further
Discussion and Research
- How can we determine what
styles to use with our classes? This relates to both course content
and the students' style.
- What are the students' styles?
How do we help them understand their own and others?
- Where can we get help finding
materials outside of our own learning style. We tend to teach from how
we learn. How do we break this?
- How does attrition in fully
online courses relate to the match of learning styles to course presentation
- Is there any present research
on learning styles and the online environment?