The recognition and accommodation of the diverse learning styles exhibited by team members can lead to improved interaction and greater synergy online or face-to-face. The most commonly recognized learning styles are derived from the main sense used for sensory input. Commonly, the three most pertinent and all-encompassing learning styles are visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. If the learning styles can be properly identified and accommodated in both the face-to-face and online environments, the result will be greatly empowered people and more effective teams. Listening or speaking to facilitate the learning process characterizes the auditory learning style. It can be divided into two sub-categories: the listening learner who learns by hearing and the verbal learner who learns by discussion (Lamarche-Bisson, 2002).
This individual thrives in environments primarily of lecture and discussion. A person of this style can demonstrate a profound listening ability or a talkative spirit, needing to repeat information in his / her own words for better understanding. A visual learning style involves thinking in terms of picture or words; this style is divided into two sub-categories: the visual / verbal learner who learns best when information is presented visually and in a written language format and the visual / non -verbal learner who learns best when information is presented visually and in a picture or design format. "It's as if he has a movie camera in his mind" (Lamarche-Bisson, 2002). The visual learning style naturally focuses his / her perception on the external qualities of visible objects, relating images to reasoning. Cognition is image-based and note-taking serves as a common mnemonic device, as conclusions are drawn based on imagined pictorial representations.
Fleming writes kinesthetic learners require "concrete, multi-sensory experiences in their learning. Although learning by doing matches their needs they can easily learn conceptual and abstract material provided it arrives with suitable analogies, real life examples, or metaphors. They learn theory through its application" (Fleming, 1995). The kinesthetic learning style is characterized by a need to experience ideas and information in order to better understand them. This type of learner uses all senses, in some given combination, to facilitate the learning process. Each sense, sight, touch, taste, smell, and hearing, is of equal potential importance to becoming immersed in the learning experience.
The modern continuous-learner must receive proper attention in both face-to-face and online environments. This need not require great expense, simply an easel, an example, or a repetition of what was just said can make a world of difference to the various learners, and in turn, to the organizations that these learners compose. The online application of the auditory learning style in an academic situation requires the learner to be creative in his assimilation of information since the opportunity for direct auditory learning is minimal. Perhaps the off-line interaction between the learner and others in social or familial settings can supplant his need for discussion. In that way the learner can strike a balance between the diminished capacity for direct auditory learning in an online environment. This allows for a quasi-discussion format in which the verbal learner can express problems and develop solutions in his own mind.
The online application of the auditory learning style professionally, allows for a wider range of learning options. In the professional environment, the learner may often be exposed to others who are involved in the online learning process. A professional learner in an online course associated with the company may be exposed to others within the company who are also taking the class. This provides opportunities for interaction among them, away from the online forum.
Without the benefit of direct explanation or lecturing, he would benefit from the availability of downloadable audio files. The online application of the visual learning style in an academic setting requires the use of diagrams, pictures and illustrations within online programs. Visual learners also benefit from tasks such as quizzes and online discussion as this provides them with a chance to see and explore their ideas in written format. Another area of importance for this learner is the chance to summarize or create notes about topics, as in the use flash cards for memory recall of what they have learned. Professionally, the online application of the visual learning style affords the learner a "variety of delivery of methods, such as classroom, one-to-one sessions, workshops, just-in-time e-learning, and seminars" (Ghose, 2002, p.
17). The use of visual aids such as films, videos and charts are important. This style of learning is also facilitated by incorporating software or add-ons that provide video-conferencing and real-time photo / drawing exchange (i. e. Microsoft Net Meeting). Furthermore, a virtual classroom enhanced for visual learning provides aesthetic and object-oriented benefits, not found in the typically Spartan and systematic newsgroup-posting format.
In an online academic environment, the kinesthetic learner achieves optimal learning conditions using computer software and simulations, allowing for a virtual engagement of the senses. Computing, in and of itself, is a hands-on activity incorporating the senses of touch, sight, and hearing. That, coupled with software enabling the virtual manipulation of data and objects makes it the ideal place for kinesthetic learning. Without the opportunity for experimentation in a physical space, the use of case studies, study sheets, and detailed lecture notes are great reinforcements. In an online professional environment, the kinesthetic learner finds his / her ideal experience with presentations utilizing multimedia demonstrations, interactive discussion scenarios, charts, and whiteboards. Data manipulation, graphic design, and sharp documentation / editorial skills are among some of the strengths demonstrated with an online medium.
They also tend to favor video conferencing and plenty of it. The real-time interaction between parties makes learning easier since topical demonstrations are possible. The auditory learner prefers to work in teams with continuous interactive dialogue. In a face-to-face environment, this learner excels through personal verbal communication. The face-to-face application of the auditory learning style in an academic situation is ideal for the both categories of auditory learner. The listening learner benefits from lectures by being able to hear direct explanations while the verbal learner has ample opportunity to participate in discussions in the classroom and as a part of study groups.
The face-to-face application of the auditory learning style in a professional situation is, if anything, even better for the auditory learner. It usually provides regimented lectures followed by discussion groups to foster understanding of the concepts presented. The group must be considerate of the auditory learner's need to speak, providing him ample time. The face-to-face application of the visual learning style is best when course material is presented visually and in written format. In a classroom these are the learners that benefit from instructors using chalkboards or overhead projectors for drawings, listing essential points, and providing students with outlines to follow along with during the lecture. Visual learners thrive on information obtained from textbooks and class notes.
The face-to-face application of the visual learning style in a professional situation can be enhanced when learners witness the lecturer's body language and facial expressions. This adds greater meaning to the content of the meeting, seminar, or workshop. During discussions, visual learners take detailed notes to absorb information, which can be enhanced with illustrations and color-coding. They prefer sitting at the front of conference rooms in order to have an unobstructed view of the information source.
They are also among the first attendees to gather handouts of material being presented and should be given access to large drawing pads or dry erase boards during discussions. In a face-to-face academic environment the kinesthetic learner prefers to sit in the front of the classroom. Here, they are able to gain a sense of experiencing the knowledge firsthand from the professor. Taking notes, throughout the lesson, also helps maintain focus on the content discussed.
They thrive in laboratories, on field trips, and in situations that utilize a functional approach to learning. Laboratories facilitate the kinesthetic ideal of learning by doing; experiments have a definitive beginning with set guidelines and assumptions, an intermediary hands-on experience to work through a given problem, and a "real" outcome that can be felt and seen. In a face-to-face environment, the kinesthetic learner is best suited to group collaborative activities within the workplace. The interactivity of teamwork is the best stage for this learning style.
They are best suited to discussions around practical and relevant solutions to problems, turning brainstorming activities and speculation into concrete ideas. This makes them adept to refocusing round table conversations that go off topic. They are also effective at delivering important presentation points through the use of real-world examples, solidifying abstract concepts and providing a unified understanding. While every learning style can be better accommodated in both the virtual and face-to-face environment, the overall team performance can be greatly improved by team members actively adapting to the learning styles of others. This adaptation will result in greater communication, increased member involvement in idea-sharing, and the establishment of a more fluid and organic learning environment, a far cry from the fixed, regimented learning structures. The overall environmental, communicative, and performance enhancements will better emulate the natural state of organs or cells working in harmony towards the betterment and maintenance of an organism.
This organic, living harmony is what is commonly known as synergy. Ghose, D. , (2002/2003). Steps to smooth learning path. IT Training, 16-19. Retrieved from April 14, 2003 the EBSCO host database.
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