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Designing Distance Education Learning Materials to Cater for Different Learning Styles Dr. Mohamed Ally Athabasca University Canada 13º Congresso Internacional da ABED September 2, 2007 Objective

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designing distance education learning materials to cater for different learning styles

Designing Distance Education Learning Materials to Cater for Different Learning Styles

Dr. Mohamed Ally

Athabasca University


13º Congresso Internacional da ABED

September 2, 2007



By the end of this session you will be able to identify your own learning style and describe how to design distance education materials for different learning styles.

learning style
Learning style is defined as a combination of cognitive, affective, and physiological factors that serve as relatively stable indicators of how a learner perceives, interacts with, and responds to the learning environment.Learning Style

Style One Learners

Strength:Innovation & ideas

Function By: Value clarification

Goals: To be involved in important issues and bring harmony.

Favorite Question:



Style Two Learners

Strength: Creating concepts & models

Function by: Thinking things through

Goals: Intellectual recognition

Favorite Question:



Style Three Learners

Strength:Practical application of ideas

Function By:Factual data from“hands on” experience

Goals: Align their view of present with future security

Favorite Question:



Style Four Learners

Strength: Action, getting things done

Function By: Acting and testing experience

Goals: To bring action to ideas

Favorite Question:

What if?

learning style one supporter

the heart

build community - seek harmony

sense of noble purpose




group work

learning style two theorist

fitting information into current reality

sequential thinking

use facts to persuade


transmit knowledge

accurate information

knowledge leads to comprehension

learning style three achiever

plans & timelines

favor productivity

shares knowledge of results


matching curriculum to economic usefulness

demonstrates detailed hands-on processes

uses tricks of the trade - shows short-cuts

learning style four influencer

offering crisis and challenge

looks for patterns and possibilities




sketches and illustrates concepts

encouraging the use of alternatives, choices

concrete experience ce
Students who score high in the CE dimension prefer experience-based approach to learning that relies on feelings-based judgment.

Tend to be empathetic

Find theoretical approaches to be unhelpful

Prefer to treat each situation as a unique case

Learn best from specific examples in which they can be involved

Related more to other students rather than the instructor

Learn from specific experience

Concrete Experience (CE)
implications for distance education
Provide a variety of learning activities to meet the needs of CE.

Provide real life examples that students can relate to.

Provide opportunities to interact with other students e.g. small group work using computer conference or videoconferencing.

Prefer instructor/tutor to be a coach.

Implications for Distance Education
abstract conceptualization ac
Prefer an analytical, conceptual approach to learning that relies heavily on logical thinking and rational evaluation

More oriented towards things and symbols, and less towards other people

Learn best in instructor-directed, impersonal learning situations that emphasize theory and systematic analysis

Do not learn from unstructured "discovery learning" approaches such as exercises and simulations

Good at logical analysis of ideas

Like to do systematic planning

Abstract Conceptualization (AC)
implications for distance education ac
Layout a plan for the students to follow

Use a linear sequence for the learning

Like theoretical readings

Implications for Distance Education (AC)
reflective observation ro
Prefer a tentative, impartial and reflective approach to learning.

Rely heavily on careful observation in making judgment

Prefer learning situations such as presentations

Look for the meaning of things

Tend to be introverts

Reflective Observation (RO)
implications for distance education ro
Allow enough time to apply the information

Provide all the information to students

Provide opportunities to work alone

Prefer passive delivery

Prefer norm-reference evaluation

See the instructor/tutor as the expert

Implications for Distance Education (RO)
active experimentation ae
Prefer an active "doing" orientation to learning that relies heavily on experimentation.

Prefer to do activities such as projects, homework, or group discussions

Do not like passive learning situations such as presentations and readings

Get things done

Like to take risks

Tend to be extroverts

Active Experimentation (AE)
implications for distance education ae
Use active learning strategies

Like to do things

Prefer to work in small groups to solve problems

Tend to be self-directed

Implications for Distance Education (AE)
Combination of concrete experience and reflective observation

Strengths lie in an imaginative ability

Interested in people and emotional elements

Have broad cultural interests

diverger why skills




Knowing oneself

Appreciating others

Diverger (Why) Skills
Combination of abstract conceptualization and reflective observation

Like to create theoretical models

More concerned with abstract concepts rather than with people.

They are good at planning

assimilator what skills




Drawing conclusions


Seeing patterns and connections


Assimilator (What) Skills
Combination of abstract conceptualization and active experimentation.

Like to apply ideas

Tend to be unemotional

Prefer to work with things rather than with people

They have narrow technical interest

converger how skills

Manipulating materials and ideas

Making things work

Testing reality


Trying and failing

Converger (How) Skills
Combination of concrete experience and active experimentation

Like to do things and involve themselves in new experiences

Very adaptable to new situations

Tend to solve problems intuitively

Rely on others for information

Like to work with people

accommodator if skills








Accommodator (If) Skills
learning style data montgomery
67% of the students learn best actively, yet instruction is passive

69% of the students are visual, yet instruction is mostly verbal and textual

28% of the students are global, yet we seldom focus on the ``big picture''

Learning Style Data (Montgomery)
presence in distance education
Using mediated technology (virtual reality, simulation, video conferencing, etc) to provide an illusion that the mediated experience is not mediated.

The distance education experience should create a strong sense of presence.

Presence in Distance Education
sample strategies for distance education
Learners must construct a memory link between the new information and some related information already stored in long-term memory. On the web, learners with diverse background and knowledge can choose the most appropriate link to review previous learning before new information is presented.

Active strategies can be built into distance education materials to allow learners to process the information.

Sample Strategies for Distance Education
On-line testing can be done to check learners’ achievement level and to provide appropriate feedback.

Use the browsing capabilities of the web to encourage higher level learning.

Network learning theory suggests that information is stored as networks in LTM. Hence, the hypermedia structure of the web should facilitate storage and retrieval.

Visuals can be integrated into the learning materials.

Promote interactivity by providing feedback, adapting the instruction to the learner, and suggesting activities for the learner to process at a deep level.

Allow collaboration using synchronous and asynchronous communication.

Use guest experts.

Access on-line libraries.

Use computer conferences for student-student and instructor-student interaction.

Ask students to keep an electronic journal.

Link to appropriate learning materials on the web

designing distance education materials
Give the Big Picture (Content map)

Connect to the learner and gain interest (Rationale)

Set expectations for learning (Objectives)

Include strategies to organize the learning (Advance Organizer)

Check for readiness (Prerequisites)

Check for prior knowledge (Self-assessment)

Designing Distance Education Materials
designing distance education materials43
Provide opportunities for learning

Activities to Motivate the Learners

Activities to Explore to Find the Information

Activities to Use the Materials to Improve Performance

Activities to Transfer the Knowledge and Skills to New Situations

Designing Distance Education Materials
designing distance education materials44
Give learners the opportunity to practice and provide feedback

Bring Closure to the Learning Experience

Check for Achievement of Objectives

Provide Opportunities for Real Life applications

Designing Distance Education Materials
group exercise
Form small groups

Identify a lesson topic and prepare four learning activities (for each type of learner in the Kolb model) for distance education.

Select a group leader to present back to the large group (5 minutes).

Group Exercise
further research
Interaction pattern by learning style.

Tutor and students learning style.

Which learning style adapt better to distance education?

Level of support required by the different learning styles.

Learning style and success in distance education.

Adapting instruction for different learning styles.

Further Research
Ally, M. & Fahy, P. (2005). Learning Style in Online Interaction in Distance Education. Indian Journal of Open Learning, 14(1), p. 15-33.

Ally, M. (2005). Designing Instruction for Successful Online Learning. In C. Howard (Ed.). Encyclopedia of Online Learning. Idea Group Inc. Hershey, PA.

Ally, M. (2005). Multimedia information design for mobile devices. In M. Pagani (Ed.). Encyclopedia of Multimedia Technology and Networking. Idea Group Inc. Hershey, PA.

Ally, M. (2004). Staff Training and Development in Open and Distance Learning. In Weiyuan Zhang (Ed.) Global Perspectives: Philosophy and Practice in Distance Education. China: China Central Radio and Television University Press, p. 277-297.

Ally, M. (2004). Intelligent Tutoring Systems for Distributed Learning. In Fahua Oscar Lin (Ed.) Designing Distributed Learning Environments with Intelligent Software Agents, Hershey, PA: Information Science Publishing, p. 162-183.

Ally, M. (2004). Foundations of education theory for online learning. In T. Anderson and F. Elloumi (eds.), Theory and Practice of Online Learning. Athabasca: Athabasca University Press, pp. 3-32, 2004. Available at:

Montgomery, S.M. Addressing Diverse Learning Styles Through the Use of Multimedia. University of Michigan.