Understanding Different Learning Styles

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Designing an online course involves not only the content but also understanding the types of formats that will work for learners, and this is where the different learning styles of your students play an important role when deciphering what types of content formats can grab their attention and help them better integrate knowledge.  

As Albert Einstein once said ¨Any fool can know. The point is to understand. ¨ This inspirational quote is a good reminder for any instructional designer that the key to an effective online learning program is how well your learners understand the information delivered so they can better retain it.  

With this said, in this article we will explore the four different learning styles, some of the factors that influence them, and the best tips on how you can apply them so you can improve your e-learning courses and get better results from your students. So, keep on reading!  

4 Main types of learning styles 

As the Bay Atlantic University points out ¨ Every student has a strategy they use to remember information more efficiently while studying. Some of them take notes; some make diagrams; some prefer to listen to lectures, etc¨  

Let’s dig deeper into why this is the case by examining four of the main learning styles based on the well-known Flemming and Mills VARK method (Visual, Aural, Read/write, and Kinesthetic), just bear in mind that learners might not just use one of them but several learning methods. 

1. Visual Learning Style: Seeing and Observing 

If you want visual learners to better understand your online course content, you will need to provide them with very specific visual elements that transform words into easy-to-follow information. Including maps, diagrams, charts, graphs, and flow charts with logical sequences that can be followed through symbols and hierarchies help them internalize information.  

It is worth mentioning that the term visual learning can be misleading, using all types of visuals such as images, PowerPoint presentations, videos or movies is not recommended for visual learners. What they really need are visual representations that explain the relationship between different concepts.  

2. Auditory Learning Style: Listening and Hearing 

As per the Auditory or Aural mode of learning, students who have more of this tendency to learn usually prefer to retrieve information either orally or by listening. They tend to want to sort their thoughts out by speaking and asking questions repeatedly and better retain knowledge though group discussions, audios such as podcasts, and even using their smartphones to consume and understand content.  

3. Kinesthetic Learning Style: Doing and Moving 

Kinesthetic learners tend to understand information through their five senses, this means that they learn through experiences and practicing what you teach them. Some of the course content that works well for these students are demonstrations, simulations, videos of real cases, as well as exercises where they can put into practice what they learn. In simple words, a learning by doing method will work wonders with them.  

4. Reading/Writing Learning Style: Reading and Writing 

Finally, the reading and writing learning style of learning is preferred by those students that better retain knowledge when information is displayed in words. The course content formats that work better for them will be PowerPoint presentations, articles, written manuals, reports. Basically, anything that they can read and extract information by taking notes, since they are avid writers too!  

Remember that not all learners will fall into a single category, but these different types of learning styles can be very useful and a guidance when choosing the different content formats, learning materials, and even selecting the right e-learning software that adapts to all the styles of learning.  

While the VARK learning model is one of the most popular ones, it is not the only one, there are more types of learning beyond the four main learning styles discussed here, let’s explore them!  

Beyond the Four Main Learning Styles 

The learning process goes far beyond the audio, visual, auditory and reading/writing techniques, considering the types of learning personalities can be very useful for instructional designers, teachers, and trainers so they can get the optimal results from their students. Here we will examine each one and learn what motivates them, so keep on reading!  

  • Logical/Analytical Learners: Thinking and Reasoning 

As the term suggests, logical and analytical learners decode and internalize information through problem-solving, they tend to look for connections, causes, patterns, and are result-driven. Motivating them involves stimulating them through interactive courses that include exercises, such as branching scenarios, that require interpretation so they can work towards a conclusion through facts, reasoning, and end-results.  

  • Social/Linguistic Learners: Interacting and Communicating 

These learning personalities prefer a more interactive environment where they can socialize and learn from their peers, as well as participate in activities. Bearing this in mind, having open communication channels such as forums and chats where they can exchange ideas and learn through group discussions are a great way to get them engaged.  

  • Solitary Learners: Independent and Reflective 

Also known as solo learners or intrapersonal learners, are students that prefer to learn on their own, they are highly independent and like to work individually instead of in a group. You can motivate this type of learner by providing resources that they can follow on their own; include in your e-learning courses links to e-books, videos, and external websites where they find information and study by themselves.  

While it’s tempting to just take as a reference all these learning styles to plan out your online courses, it’s not as simple as it seems, there are many factors that influence how information is absorbed and retained. In this next section, we will explore other aspects that influence the learning process.  

Factors Influencing Learning Styles 

Although there are many elements that can influence how students learn, we are going to look specifically at how cognitive and emotional factors impact learning. 

Cognitive Factors Influencing Learning Styles 

Cognitive processes are those involved in retrieving information from the working memory and long-term memory, as well as attention, and metacognitive monitoring which involves how learners approach a learning task, solve problems and make self-assessments and text comprehension.  

These processes are essential for linking past knowledge with new information through our working and long-term memory, forming the basis for critical thinking and comprehension skills. They enable students to recall information, analyze sounds and images, compare, contrast, and interpret data. 

Emotional Factors Impacting Learning Styles

On the other hand, emotional factors also play a crucial role, they can either enhance learning or inhibit learning.  

Positive emotions such as curiosity, passion, creativity or engagement activate the reward system in the brain, which helps a learner keep their focus and attention. They also allow them to respond well to challenges and criticism, as well as seek solutions.  

Conversely, negative emotions which can include stress, anxiety, disinterest, worry or fear can lower motivation and block learning processes. Within the learning environment, these can be caused by being unprepared, failure or feeling disconnected from their peers.  

Knowing the different learning styles and personalities can be of great help to create course content that can adapt to each learner making it more effective. And understanding what other factors affect learning is vital for trainers and teachers. Nevertheless, you also need to keep in mind that you will need to choose carefully a learning environment with tools that fit all your student’s learning needs.  

Optimal Learning Environments for Different Styles 

Selecting the right technology that adapts to each different learning style is vital to increase knowledge retention and motivation.  

There are many e-learning technologies that provide a wide variety of content formats and communication channels that you can leverage to improve learning outcomes.  

For example, authoring tools such as isEazy Author, let you create course content with a large variety of resources that can be used by all types of learners. You can include videos, simulations, exercises, and games that kinesthetic and analytical learners will enjoy, insert links to external sources such as e-books or websites for solo learners, and even create graphs and infographics for visual learners.  

As for the Reading/Writing or Social/Linguistic learners, training apps such as isEazy Engage or LMS/ LXP platforms such as isEazy LMS, are ideal learning environments for them. Both mobile training apps and LXP platforms offer communication channels where social learners can interact with others such as chats, forums, as well as share and comment on content. On the other hand, these two platforms have knowledge sharing spaces where reading/writing learners can find lots of written resources such as articles, manuals, PDFs and much more.  

As you can see you have many different choices when it comes to the e-learning technology market, they all have learning environments with valuable features that cater to all the different learning types. Also, when searching for the ideal learning environment make sure it has the right tools to evaluate and give constructive feedback to learners or includes self-evaluation features. 

Assessing and Providing Feedback for Different Learning Styles 

Giving constructive feedback to students is an integral part of the learning process, it helps them assess their results, and if done right, can even improve motivation and performance. 

But performing assessments should not be a one-size-fits-all, just as each student learns differently, feedback should also be adapted to each different learning style. In this section you will learn how to give each type of learner the assessment they need:  

Feedback for visual learners 

You will need to present information in a clear, concise, and organized way. Try to emphasize the main points through visual aids such as graphs, charts, diagrams, or screenshots that include highlighting elements such as colors, symbols, and icons.  

Feedback for auditory learners 

Giving feedback verbally in a conversational, engaging and expressive way goes a long way with this type of student. Make use of examples and stories to convey your points and show relevance. Audios can be used to give feedback personally, while chats and forums can be helpful to gather information through conversations.  

Feedback for reading/writing learners  

For this type of learner your feedback should be detailed, accurate, and logical with data and references that support it. Using blogs or articles that support your comments can be very effective. Also, providing clear guidelines with instructions, recommendations, or actions steps is essential for them to fully understand.  

Feedback for kinesthetic learners 

For kinesthetic learners, giving feedback that is practical, experiential, and motivational is highly beneficial. Using gamification apps, such as isEazy Game, that give instant feedback through interactive experiences is ideal.  

Apply these practical feedback tips for each different learning style, and you will see how each learner will react positively and gain a better understanding of the course content through assessments that are adapted to their individual learning characteristics.  

Although the VARK model presents a framework for educators and trainees, studies have shown that looking at education from a holistic point of view is very favorable for students. In the following section, we will examine why integrating multiple learning styles is beneficial.  

Integrating Multiple Learning Styles for Holistic Education 

Holistic education is a comprehensive approach to learning, it places emphasis on the individual strengths of the student and focuses on learning by doing (experiential learning), as well as self-guided learning so students can learn at their own pace and in their own style. 

Integrating multiple learning styles is valuable when implementing a holistic approach, in fact a study published in the journal of Postgraduate Medicine shows that learners use a combination of them. According to the study ¨Nearly 87% of participants identified as having a multimodal style of accessing information, with audio-kinesthetic and audio-read/write as the most common combinations, according to JPM. Some participants identified as trimodal, with audio-read/write-kinesthetic as the most common combination.¨ 

Having this mind, a successful holistic education should include multiple course content formats and tools that help learners get hands-on learning experiences, fulfill the needs of a combination of multiple learning styles, and have the option of studying at their own rhythm.  

Moreover, as new generations of students are impacted by the digital age, educators need to find the right learning environments and platforms that adjust to the new preferences of students.  

Adapting to Evolving Learning Styles in the Digital Age 

In the digital age, learning styles are evolving as technology reshapes education. Students now engage with interactive tools, online resources, multimedia content, and social networks which demand a flexible approach to teaching. Educators must adapt by integrating digital platforms, fostering collaboration through social dynamic tools, and offering personalized learning experiences.  

Emphasizing adaptability and leveraging technology can enhance engagement, cater to diverse learning preferences, and prepare students for the future. As learning styles continue to evolve, embracing digital innovations will be key to fostering effective education. 

To sum up, considering diverse learning styles and personalities when planning course content and evaluations can help educators maximize student potential. Furthermore, selecting flexible and adaptable learning environments that offer tools that adapt to different learning styles and adopt a holistic approach to education is essential in the digital age, ensuring they align with modern methods of information absorption. 

Want to maximize the potential of your students? isEazy offers a complete e-learning toolkit that adapts to any learning style. Design courses through an authoring tool with a large variety of interactive resources, leverage experiential learning with the gamification app, adapt to new learning methods with the mobile training app, and share all your knowledge via an LMS designed to present content in a more dynamic and flexible way.  

Frequently Asked Questions about different learning styles

Learning styles refer to the different ways individuals prefer to absorb, process, and retain information. They are important because recognizing and accommodating these preferences can enhance teaching effectiveness and improve student engagement and success. 

Educators can accommodate diverse learning styles by using a variety of teaching methods. This includes visual aids, hands-on exercises and games, group discussions, and individualized feedback, ensuring that all students have opportunities to learn in ways that suit them best. 

No, there is no single best learning style for all students. Each student is unique, and what works for one may not work for another. Effective education involves recognizing and addressing the diverse learning needs of each student. 

Students can identify their preferred learning style by reflecting on their learning experiences and noticing which methods help them understand and retain information best. They can also take learning style assessments or seek feedback from teachers and peers. 

Yes, several factors influence how students learn, including motivation, prior knowledge, learning environment, and emotional state. These elements interact with learning styles, making a holistic approach essential for effective education. 

Nicole Bayer


Nicole Bayer

Content Marketing Specialist at isEazy

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