Adjusting online delivery to meet student learning styles
Edwards, Jennifer Leigh Cook
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This action research study examined student perceptions and achievement of online course materials when designed and delivered to meet different learning styles. The Felder-Silverman (1988) model of learning styles guided the design, development, and delivery of selected instructional learning modules. Prior to the delivery of course content, students’ individual learning styles were assessed with the Felder and Soloman’s (1998) Index of Learning Styles Survey. Students completed a demographics questionnaire providing personal information, and responded to a survey describing their perceptions of previous online courses. Using the cyclical, iterative process of action research, the first cycle involved a unit of study administered in a traditional, asynchronous, online teaching format; all content was readily available with deadlines clearly communicated and marked. Data from Pre-Satisfaction surveys, Written Narratives, homework, and a unit quiz were gathered and analyzed at the end of the first cycle. This data served as a baseline of how students performed in a traditional, self-directed online teaching design and also revealed that verbal learners performed best compared to other learning styles. Student perceptions of this method were determined, which indicated moderate to low levels of satisfaction. The next cycle identified the types and distribution of students’ learning preferences. The second cycle consisted of a unit of study containing assignments and activities designed to meet visual learners which were the predominant student learning preference and the lowest performers from the previous cycle. Results of the second cycle were used to identify the learning style with the least academic improvement, active and reflective learners, which led to a third phase. The third cycle incorporated activities designed to meet learning style needs of both active and reflective learners. A fourth and final cycle attempted to meet all learning styles by allowing students to choose from a variety of assignment designs posted in the online course. Student academic performance was average when course content was delivered with no consideration to learning styles. However, achievement scores improved among all learner groups when instructional content was designed and delivered to meet learning styles. Significant improvements in course satisfaction were also noted when individual learning styles were met or when the course was delivered in an attempt to meet all learning styles.
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