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|Taking Learning Styles into Account|
CAL packages have come a long way from a set of floppies with merely text and graphics on them, to highly sophisticated 'interactive' learning modules. Often these packages claim learning is made easy for students, by taking their learning styles into account.
But is this truly the case? Find below some learning styles explained and translated into good practice for use in CAL packages.
Auditive or visual learning styles
Supporting study styles
However, very few CAL packages support this students' need. Occasionally, a button featuring 'study advice' is available, and although this is a fairly artificial solution, it is a good start. Weaving study-related remarks into the body of a module within a package would be ideal.
Allowing for failure
Interaction: none of it, false or true interaction?
Pedagogically successful packages give an explanation of why something is right or wrong and preferably do not allow for retrying based on trial and error. True interaction is concerned when a student's input steers the activities of the package. This could, for instance, mean that a students' right answer allows him to skip the next module, or a wrong answer adds a remedial module.
Please note that even in a mass-lecture where students are not encouraged to ask questions or discuss topics, learning often takes place in a two-step fashion. The first step is passive: the student listens to what the lecturer talks about, reads slides or looks at the blackboard. The second step is active: students generally make notes and therefore engage with the material they need to learn, however shallow this may be.
Students observed while using CAL packages showed very little active learning, unless the package promotes interaction. They are encouraged to work together or guidance is given on a more active way of working through a package (for instance by making notes).
Separation of knowledge systems.
It is easiest for students to pick up knowledge if it relates to something they already know. By referring to as many topics as possible, which have nothing or very little to do with the content of the CAL package, effective students' learning can be supported. Of course this can also be done by the tutor or lecturer teaching the course, if the package is only part of a full course.
However, for developers of CAL packages it is important not to let students develop a system of knowledge solely related to the CAL package concerned, but link knowledge to a wider area within the course.
(As an illustration for tutors/lecturers: have you ever wondered why students do brilliantly at your exams, but six months later, they cannot use any of the skills you have taught them in other courses? You may be looking at the effect of separate knowledge systems).
Gwen van der Velden
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Last modified: 25 March 1999.