Skip to content

How to design for student learning preferences in an online course

How to design for student learning preference in an online course

People have preferred ways of learning. Some like to read. Some like to watch videos. Others like to listen. And mixed in with those types are those who like to do alongside the instructions. You can’t build a perfect course for each learner, but you can address many learning preferences in one course by offering choices. 

This choice addresses the adult learning principle that says adults want consideration as equal partners in the learning process. You are respecting their ability to choose what works for them.

What Are Learning Modalities?

So now is a good time to talk about learning modalities. Learning modality is a term that means how people consume information. The three modalities are visual, auditory, and tactile/kinesthetic. 

The people who are visual learners are those who picture things in their minds. They might like diagrams. They also like to read the text themselves, see it with their own eyes. 

Auditory learners like to listen and to speak. These learners like spending time in discussion. 

Your tactile/kinesthetic learners require some sort of touch. These are the kinds of students in school who learned math concepts best by using manipulatives, things they could move around and group up.

As a course creator, you need to apply what you know about learning modalities to adult learners. We’re not going to be giving all of our students manipulatives, but we do need to build in ways for them to get hands-on experience. If your course has students creating something physical, then you’re covered. 

How Do You Address Learning Preferences In Your Course Design?

As you’re designing your course, you want to include the information in those three different modalities as often as you can. It can be the same information but you give the learner a choice on how they prefer to access that information and to consume it.

If you create a video lesson off of a script, then you already have the text available to post as an option for those students who would prefer to read. 

If you record the video lesson without a script, you can try the trick of opening a Google Doc and turning on voice typing, then playing your video out loud and letting the voice typing record your words on the document. You will need to clean it up because it doesn’t notice punctuation and paragraphs unless you say ‘period’ or ‘new paragraph’. 

My phone voice recorder has a speech-to-text feature, so I start all my content by talking out my ideas there. I remember to say ‘period’ and ‘new paragraph’ sometimes.  

You need to build in choices for your students on how to consume your content. 

A Personal Example Of Learning Preferences in Action

I have an example from my personal experience. As part of my job, I created materials for my co-workers to understand how to do things, generally with technology. I would send out how-to instructions often in the form of a bulleted list of steps that people had to follow. But I also included short walkthrough videos, especially if it was new software that they were working with. It was the exact same stuff that was on my bulleted list, it just happened to have images that went with it and my voice explaining the steps. 

I was thinking it was too much. People were not going to read all that or read and watch the video. Then I got an email from a co-worker. She thanked me for providing the video instructions as well as the written instructions because English was not her first language. While she spoke excellent English, reading was a lot slower for her. She loved listening to my voice on the walk-through and following those directions. And she really appreciated that I gave her the choice.

I got an email from another co-worker who said they very much appreciated that they could see what I was doing on the videos. So yes they listen to my voice but actually watching someone do the steps they were supposed to do is what helped them. 

I heard from yet another co-worker who said thank you for listing the instructions below the video because there was no way she was going to watch the video. She needed them written.

From that point on I made sure to have a short video walkthrough and the written instructions. I only worked with nighty or so people but all the modalities were covered.

What Do These Learning Preferences Mean For Your Online Course?

I was doing some reading and research indicated that about a third of your learners are auditory learners, a third are visual learners, and about 15 to 20% I believe are tactile/kinesthetic learners.I’m not sure what the deal is with that missing percentage.  

With those types of numbers, it’s in your best interest to provide the different modalities to cover your bases. And your learners will appreciate that you thought enough of them to give them a choice in the matter. It does make them feel like they are partners in learning.

Giving your learners a choice in how they consume your content works well in all cases and courses. It’s an overarching best practice that should be used often. 

Providing students with choice in how they want to receive the information respects them as individual learners and increases student motivation to continue. 

Now if you have an instance where you really need the student to watch the video like a screencast tutorial, then don’t offer any other way to access the material. It’s okay to not give a choice sometimes if there are no reasonable options.

I also want you to keep in mind that some of your learners may have special needs. Some may be using a screen-reader and need specific ways to access your information. We’ll talk more about accessibility in a future episode.

Your Turn

Now it’s your turn. Think of something you plan to teach in your course. How would you provide the information for your visual learners, your auditory learners, and your tactile learners?

Community Connection

Share your ideas with the community in the comments of the episode video. Read the other comments and offer support and feedback as you see a need. I look forward to reading your contributions.

Want More?

Download my free ebook, Online Course Creation Made Easy: 25 Activities to Engage Your Online Learner

Other posts you might be interested in are:

If you prefer listening to this as a podcast, visit my Podcasts page or look for Laura Creates Courses on your favorite podcast player.

If you prefer watching videos, you can check out the Laura Creates Courses YouTube channel.

Verified by MonsterInsights