Embrace the seven styles of learning

The cloud engages where traditional approaches fail, writes Christian Smythe

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What was your favourite lesson as a child? Why did you enjoy it? What do you remember learning? Can you take these and re-apply them to your working learning? We don’t all learn in one way. We all remember those disruptive kids in class who, when we look back now, just learnt in different, perhaps non-traditional ways. Many people who we deem to be successful struggled at school. Simon Cowell only has one O-level, Steven Spielberg was rejected from film school, and Russell Brand was kicked out of school at 16 for being a troublemaker.

In fact, we all have different elements of seven learning styles. These are visual (spatial); aural (auditory-musical); verbal (linguistic); physical (kinesthetic); logical (mathematical); social (interpersonal); and solitary (intrapersonal). How many times have we heard, “Well I’m a physical learner. I need to learn by using my hands”? Especially as managers, we must deal with many different people with different learning styles. But there is not one type of learner; people are an amalgamation of learning styles. Yet they can prefer one style over another.

In workplaces today, we must deal with these learning challenges. Up until the 21st century, we had very strict learning processes in the world of work. We turned up to our first day in the new office and, typically, were presented with a company handbook. These covered everything from your working day, contractual obligations and your health and safety briefings. The days of the traditional handbook might be numbered because trainers and HR professionals are beginning to realize that we all learn differently.

So how can our in-work learning benefit from our childhood schooling? It is worth thinking about which teachers and lessons you enjoyed and why you enjoyed them.

Unfortunately for trainers, there is no one-size-fits-all solution to working out how people learn. We are quick to say how we prefer to learn from positive experiences, but often we are not honest about how effective they were. So we need to find ways that utilize every learning style.

What should we do? Well, formalized training methods can fulfill a number of these styles, and great trainers can react to different types of learners. But for businesses that need to get new employees straight onto the workfloor, a training course may not be practicable.

A solution to this is cloud learning. With courses, content, experts and support based in the cloud, learners can access their learning resources whenever they need to. Furthermore, different types of content can be accessed to assist each style of learning. Social learners can use collaborative features, while solitary learners can complete tasks by themselves. Visual learners can watch videos, while aural learners can listen to podcasts or audiobooks. Even with modern technology, verbal learners can use voice recognition software or recording apps on their phones to take notes and replay at a later date. And while kinesthetic learners may not be fully catered for as yet, the rise of augmented and virtual reality will mean that every type of learner will be able to utilize every piece of content to cater for their own learning style.

While you can’t control everyone’s learning styles, you can control how they make the most of them. With the technology we have available today, there is no excuse for learners to fall through the cracks. And furthermore, trainers have no excuse to let them.

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–– Christian Smythe is head of content & partner strategy at BlueBottleBiz