Supporting Learning Styles in the Virtual World

Differentiating instruction includes supporting various student learning styles and is a challenge as teachers tend to teach in their own preferred style.  For the skilled instructor, using learning style models, personality indicators and/or intelligence inventories, Virtual Worlds can remove some limitations and add options, perhaps more easily than in the real world.

Individuals meet to hear a lecture, view directions on using software, and chat while their avatar representations stand, sit or move about in a forest.

A traditional lecture, though often cited as not the most effective teaching strategy,  in the real world requires that students sit and listen, they should take notes and they should not talk to each other.  This traditional and most commonly used method of instruction supports  the auditory learner (listening) and the verbal learner (note taking).  It may address the visual learner depending on the visuals, if any.  A traditional lecture prohibits collaboration, necessary for the interpersonal learner and does not accommodate the musical, naturalistic, or kinesthetic learner.  It may or may not meet the needs of an intra-personal learner.  The concrete sequential personality type adjusts effectively to a well delineated lecture but the random personality may learn more effectively through a more diverse model of learning.

The same lecture in a virtual world has the potential to better address some of these learning styles/intelligences/personalities.  Students who learn best in an interpersonal modality can chat amongst themselves (about the content)  to better understand the information being delivered, this is done in a private or group chat without disrupting the lecturer or those who need to listen or read without chatting.  The lecture can be delivered simultaneously in both audio and text format to more effectively address both the auditory and verbal learner with the student option of turning one or the other off.  The musical and naturalistic learner is accommodated to some degree by setting up the virtual environment in a natural setting and allowing for an individual  option to play music.  The kinesthetic/tactile learner is probably the most difficult to reach, a lecture in any world does not effectively accommodate the kinesthetic learner.  A tactile learner will typically fidget and move about during a lecture, if the tactile learner is logging on remotely it is not a problem and the ability to move a camera about and create movement on a personal screen may satisfy the kinesthetic learner without disturbing those who learn in alternate modalities.

Teachers employ strategies, other than lectures, that more effectively address learning styles and personality types.  Project-based learning, experiments, role-play, individual practice are viable ways for students to learn.  The virtual world offers possibilities in these activities similar to the real world with the added benefit of sometimes offering a broader potential at a lower cost.  Virtual World teaching and learning can serve as an addition, not a replacement to real world teaching and learning, with supplemental strategies to help address a diverse student body.

2 comments on “Supporting Learning Styles in the Virtual World

  1. it’s like anything else in teaching – use the tools you are familiar with and tools that illlustrate your topic, the larger variery of tools – the better the reach

    however . . . wonderful content relavent to the learner will often trump delivery technique. Plato’s lessons stii reverberate even though many were done with simply dialogue and frawing in the sand with a stick (it continues to hold true regardless of ed tech used, but ed tech does help disseminate to more and more people)

    nicely written post and i wholeheartedly agree with you =)

  2. Pingback: Keep it Simple, Stupid!

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