Online Classes: Meet your Learners’ needs

During the current Pandemic,  education is moving toward the online model. Most educators are finding it challenging to ensure that students are learning what they are supposed to learn. The online model creates various types of noise (acoustic, electric, internet-related). The very nature of online renders communication to be one-way – the learners are passive participants.  We are trying to fill the gap with assigned readings, quizzes, assignments, etc. But research shows that in such models, the learning is very little in terms of remembering and using the information they are absorbing.  Although I completely agree that there is a vast difference between In-person education and online learning, let’s look into some pointers which we can include to ensure we meet each learner’s needs.

Research shows that human beings, regardless of gender, age, and culture, learn best when they are involved actively in the learning process. They learn best when it is self-directed when they feel useful and meaningful and in a motivating, hands-on learning environment. Regardless of their age, each individual has their ideas to contribute. Before we get into the choices educators have when designing and developing their next presentation, training or class, let’s understand a little about the six preferred learning styles of individuals*

1) Visual. Visual learners need to see simple, easy-to-process diagrams or the written word. PowerPoint presentations and flip chart graphics are beneficial to these learners.

 2) Aural. Aural learners need to hear something so that it can be processed. They may prefer to read aloud if presented with written material. They enjoy lecture format learning.

 3) Print. Print learners process information by writing it down. They take a lot of notes, notes that they may never look at again.

 4) Tactile. Tactile learners need to do something to learn it. They are likely to avoid written instructions and dive right into a hands-on attempt to work it out. 

 5) Interactive. Interactive learners need to discuss learning concepts. Breakout discussions and Q&A formats support this type of learning.

 6) Kinesthetic. Kinesthetic learners learn through movement. Training exercises and role-plays help. Giving people the flexibility to stand and move about the classroom also helps these learners.

The above can be the guidelines for an educator to cater to the needs of different learners. So how can we include them in our online classes?

  1. Understand your learning style: Your preference will influence your way of delivery. Knowing your style will help you develop your delivery method my mixing up other forms of learning. Be creative.
  2. Find out what your learners know: If possible, know your learners by giving them time to discuss what they know or have heard about a particular topic. A session can begin with a quiz. Older learners can access material in advance or watch a presentation or video before the class.  
  3. Create a friendly environment: Research proves that giving learners a friendly, informal learning environment helps them learn better. Some liberty in terms of allowing them to speak in the class by taking turns, or present their views through screen share, etc. can give them a good feeling. It may be a worthwhile idea to provide snacks or beverage breaks.
  4. Create a Strategy: Involve learners, so they get to
    1. See: Include charts, graphs, diagrams, videos, pictures, or experiments in your presentations.
    2. Hear: Hear your insights as well as the insights of the peers by allowing them to either discuss their views in the classroom or giving them assignments that they can compile and share. Videos of famous people, subject experts, and opinion-makers can also be shared.
    3. Write: Either make them write critical points during the lecture or encourage them to take notes.  Allowing and encouraging learners to use color pens, highlighters, even colored papers, etc. can make learning fun.
    4. Experiment: Quiz, Assignments, Projects, etc. can help tactile learners to learn better.
    5. Talk about: The interactive learners learn best when given a chance to speak.  Encourage learners to share comments, ideas, insights, and opinions with the whole group. Each class can have a fixed allotted time for the learners to share their views or learnings or just a quick question and answer time.
    6. Move: Let the learners repeat the concept using some movements, exercises, role plays – these can work wonders for the kinesthetic learners.
    7. Choose: Let them decide what they choose to do. You can encourage learners to make videos of their learnings or just record discussions and share them with the group. Various methods can be,
      1. paired or small group discussions,
      2. large group discussions,
      3. quick collaborative games,
      4. presentation with personal views or learnings,
      5. making and taking quizzes,
      6. projects,
      7. role-plays, etc.

The big question – What technology should I use?: Technology is the gateway to virtual education. The success of virtual learning depends on the extent to which learners can actively participate. It is tempting to use free software to deliver content. Such an approach is a recipe for disaster. Please invest in a proprietary technology that facilitates the inclusion of real-time interaction, raising of hands, questions, assignments, discussion forums, and feedback. The keyword is an investment – after all, the future of a generation rests on the decisions we make now.

*(taken from http://www.managingamericans.com/Workplace-Communication-Skills/Success/Six-preferred-learning-styles-for-adults-424.htm):

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