Each individual has his own way of gathering and sorting information into useful knowledge. In the current scenario, online education is quite popular among students. Further, it is best suited for particular learning styles as well as personality traits. To cite an example, students who are introvert in nature find online education via computer easier than the conventional face-to-face system.
Since different students have varied styles of learning, the online instructors should develop content accordingly. There are different kinds of learning styles like visual/verbal, auditory/verbal, visual/non-verbal, and tactile/kinesthetic.
1. Visual/Verbal Style
Students who come under this category learn things better when it is available in visual and in written form. They usually prefer learning using visual aids like PowerPoint presentations, blackboard, etc. Class notes and textbooks are quite useful for these people. Since they visualise information to remember it, the online learning pattern which is available in the written form is quite suitable for them.
2. Auditory/Verbal Style
Those who belong to this group benefit from information which is available aurally. They normally gain much from listening to the lecture as well as taking part in group discussions. Audio tapes are also considered as a good source of learning by these people. These students repeat information loudly to remember it. As far as online education is concerned, computer conferencing as well as audio streaming goes well with the learning style of this group.
3. Visual/Nonverbal Style
Students who are in this group gain much from visual information available in a design or picture format. The online learning environment is quite appropriate for this group since pictorial representation of information helps them to remember the ideas and concepts. This may include tables, images, charts, graphs, etc.
4. Tactile/Kinesthetic Style
This group benefits from performing physical tasks like those done in a lab setting. Online sessions can offer great learning opportunities for these people. Demonstrations using three dimensional graphs can bring about the feel of physical dimensions. The lab sessions could be carried out at home or specific locations followed by online discussions. Fieldwork can also be included in the online syllabus.
Online learning comprises of a number of interactive techniques. There are different instructional strategies employed in online education like learning contracts, lecture, discussion, mentorship, self-directed learning, collaborative learning, project, forum, small group work, and case study.
This refers to an agreement written by learners, and comprise of details regarding the topics covered in the course, method and duration of learning, and also the evaluation criteria used in analysing the completion of the process of learning. Learning contracts help the learners to get deeply involved in learning activities. Further, the learners can get continuous feedback related to the progress made in achieving the learning objectives.
Online lectures are available in a number of formats. Sometimes these are made available in a particular web page. Notes can also be sent through snail mail or downloaded from the net. This necessarily includes audio as well as video sessions.
Internet provides different models of discussion like online conferencing sessions, mailing lists, etc. which come under asynchronous communication. Real time or synchronous communication can be accomplished through chat rooms, Multi-user Domains, etc.
Online education is of great benefit for self-directed learners in that it supports individualised learning activities. The students can utilise Internet facility in a number of ways like doing research on any subject, visiting libraries, chatting with professionals all over the world, etc.
Online mentorship permits effective communication between the student and the mentor. Further, it offers opportunities for the students to get timely feedback on questions and other issues if any.
Small Group Work
In online education, the students are formed into small groups and asked to work independently with constant access to instructor. In situations where it is difficult for the online students to meet at the same time, small groups can be formed as per the time zones regardless of the gender, geography, or disabilities.
The projects can be carried out in groups which essentially comprise of role playing, simulations, collaborative work in groups, problem solving exercises, debates, etc. Online learners can publish their projects and receive feedback from experts through Internet.
This involves the participation of two or more students in the process of learning. Though this is not so practical in online education, the students can interact with their peers without collaborating.
Case study is an instructional strategy in which the learners are required to make use of their past experiences to connect links to the future experiences. In an online setting, the case studies can be viewed across web pages and the subsequent discussions can be carried out via conferencing sessions.
Forum involves open discussion between groups. There would be a moderator who takes the discussion forward by involving the audience. An online environment is best suited for a forum compared to a conventional classroom where synchronous as well as asynchronous communication is made possible to support learning forums online.
To conclude, various learning strategies are discussed in this article which would help to make use of the online environment in a better way.
Mike Cornell and Emma Jones are behind the success of Elearning Blog, a blog solely focused on providing free resources and tips for e-learning.