When we talk of how people learn, there is a general consensus among designers of educational courseware. We all take in information from our five senses, but some of us rely more on one particular sense than the others. For example, many of us are auditory learners, preferring to hear the information we take in. Others are more visual, relying on maps, charts and diagrams to process what we learn. A third category is the kinesthetic learner; those who gain the most from actually performing a physical task.
So, since we learn in various ways and using many combinations of these learning styles, why is it that our education and training systems teach us in only one way? From the day we enter school and are taught how to learn, most of us are told to sit quietly and listen to the instructor. We are forced to be auditory learners, whether or not that way works best for us.
When we graduate to higher learning or to specific skills training, we are again faced with instruction that is primarily auditory. But gradually, things are beginning to change. There is a new trend evolving within the training and educational design realm – the trend toward creating a personalized learning environment (PLE). With much of the available training being delivered via computer or other self-directed device, this new concept holds an enormous potential for learning.
Just what is a personalized learning environment?
In order to explain what a PLE might look like, we need to contrast it with our existing systems of education and training, in which all learners are taught the same material in the same way. A PLE on the other hand, would allow a learner to select the type of lesson delivery that most appeals to him on a particular topic. And it is important to note that other methods of teaching that lesson are also available, concurrent with the method that was initially chosen. A learner can refer to any or all of the methods, thereby reinforcing the intended lesson.
Let’s look at it this way…
If the subject matter of a training lesson is attempting to teach how to repair and calibrate a piece of machinery, the learner is presented with a choice of training methods. He can choose the auditory path, in which he will listen to an explanation of how to perform the task. Alternatively, he could choose the visual path, where he can watch the task being performed. A third option would be to see a three-dimensional representation of the equipment on a screen that can be manipulated, turned, expanded, studied and even disassembled – all virtually.
In any case, the learner selects the type of training – or multiple types – based on what best fits his style of learning. The method of training then becomes learner-driven, rather than instructor-driven. Advances in technology have provided us with an array of opportunities for delivering educational content, which will only increase in the coming years. It is this focus on using technology to bring flexibility to learning that will drive the future of training.
Jeffrey A. Roth is vice president of marketing and communications at Interactyx Limited. He can be reached at Jeffrey.Roth@Interactyx.com.
Written for TrainingIndustry.com