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How Come Vark Learning Style Improve Online Learning
As a working mom to a 5-year-old, my reliance on online learning methods has grown. My daughter is, after all, an avid user of sites like Coursera, Udacity, and Kahn Academy. I find an abundance of sites and methods that are helpful to learning, but I need a way to create dynamic lessons that engage and retain her attention and that she can consistently complete. And according to recent research, that idea is nothing new, but it’s popping up again.
Researchers from the University of California, Irvine, have discovered that the more dynamic an online educational program, the more likely a student will succeed. The implications are greater than you might think.
“Through an experiment that provided both short and long-term feedback to students, the researchers demonstrated that dynamic learning interventions can make a substantial impact on learning outcomes,” said Chih-Ching Chua, an assistant professor in the UC Irvine Department of Psychology.
The findings were presented at the 2018 annual meeting of the Society for Research in Personality and Social Psychology.
While much of the research analyzing the topic goes back to the 1940s, the ability to optimize learning and learning, specifically online learning, is becoming a hot topic. “Social scientists have been touting the idea of online learning as a way to help people learn new things for decades,” Chua explained. “There’s ample literature out there showing that school students learn more and retain information when given online learning experiences, but little research has been done in order to understand why.”
Chua’s study included 276 students from the UC Irvine student body (nearly 80 percent female, all social-economic strata, and with working parents), and much of their learning was done using online instructional videos.
For each participant, the researchers presented three different projects — One was a normal 10-minute video, Two 45-minute videos containing interactive audio and text, and Three 12-minute videos. Each section provided audio and text to keep users engaged, which was consistently enough to keep the individuals motivated.
Of the students who responded to the following question:
“How many times since yesterday have you been actively engaged with learning from this site/software?”
Surprisingly, the group that got the highest scores on this question were those with the longest-term studies. Overall, these students were more likely to stay engaged on the site, finish the entire projects, and sustain their learning over the course of the semester.
Online learning can be hard for kids, especially, Chua pointed out, if parents haven’t been in the habit of completing online tests and learning from them.
“Online learning tools have wide-ranging potential in empowering people to learn and evaluate new concepts and skills,” Chua added. “People also have the ability to communicate and deliberate with peers on the web. Online learning can potentially replace face-to-face engagement, allowing people to interact in more inclusive and informal ways than in traditional settings.”
In terms of a classroom — where I work — my daughter is only on three lessons so far (for science, the multiplication tables, and trivia). Her teachers are great, though, and she’s enjoying the subject matter. Yet, I see her enjoying the online curriculum so much.
And it’s clear that this study is helpful for instructors. Teaching online is a different animal than teaching in a classroom. Online learning is “more methodologically flexible,” Chua said, and that leaves opportunities for teachers to design online learning modules in ways that might be helpful to their students.
In the classroom, most instructors work with people in groups. Online learning turns this on its head, with one student or one instructor communicating with each other. It’s certainly cool, but it does require some training from educators. The skills of teaching in this realm differ greatly.
I’ve seen some educators talk about bringing an online app like YouTube into classrooms. In this case, there are no screen caps, so digital devices disappear. The lesson won’t be as engaging. There is no way to build video-based materials. If people don’t like the digital content they’ve watched before, they can’t dismiss it and try something new. So, I’m all for more trial and error on the web.
The study showed that randomized experiments were the best method for testing the effectiveness of dynamic learning methodologies. Chua’s team will continue to study dynamic learning tools. “These include online interactive learning modules and online video conferencing,” she said. “Looking forward, we will continue to share our findings.”