Article Review #2:
September 27, 2014
Recent discussion concerning cultural and other characteristics of student learning led me to investigate further. Learning Styles and Online Education (2007), argues that “when students’ learning styles are identified, it is possible to define an appropriate context of learning.” The article discusses the design, methodology, approach, research limitations and implications, originality and value of the findings. For purposes of the study, learning styles is defined as “the preference or predisposition of an individual to perceive and process information in a particular way or combination of ways” (2007, p. 8). Zapalska and Brozik utilized the VARK questionnaire to determine student learning styles to analyze which of the learning styles or combination typically accesses and/or has preferences for an online learning community rather than other learning modalities. The VARK questionnaire determines the preferred learning style or combination of learning styles using the following modes: Aural (A), read/writers (R), visual (V), and kinesthetic (K). Typically a strong preference in one particular mode is evident, often paired with one or more mode(s).
For this study, two courses were examined with a total of 25 students over the course of summer and fall semesters. Zero students identified themselves as unimodel, five bimodal, 16 trimodel, and four multipmodel. Of the 25 students, only two identified with strong auditorial preferences. The remaining models were rather evenly mixed among preferences. This indicator led the researchers to determine that few students with a strong aural learning style were lacking from participating in online courses. Based on the information collected during the study, Zapalska and Brozik determined that online courses should accommodate all types of learners. “Combining a mixture of approaches and teaching methods allows online student to choose the instructional style that best fits their individual learning styles” (2007, p. 12). Recommendations include using a learning styles assessment instrument like the VARK to enable teachers to design courses with assignments tailored to their student preferred learning style. The article suggest several teaching strategies for all online education to increase the opportunities to bi or multimodal student learning styles: provide content in multiple formats, allow for individual locus of control (enabling students to move through the course topics in random order), and encouraging active and collaborative interactions (2007, p. 10).
To encourage active and collaborative learning, teachers should offer discovery learning, project-based and cooperative learning to encourage creativity, decision-making and problem solving (2007, p. 10). Such assignments typically pair students together to facilitate and complete a project that captures all four learning style modes. Specific examples of this type of assignment include small-group discussions during synchronous sessions, online work in groups and application-rich assignments. One in particular interested me, the idea of virtual field trips and videos. Often, textbook publishers provide e-packs that include special short videos or short films. Providing students with virtual trips allow students to be able to comprehend what they are learning (comprehension level) and apply what they have learned in new ways (application level). Students learn at the speed comfortable to them, and this affords them with more opportunities to feel in control (2007, p.11).
One criticism of the study is the small sample size. I also wonder if the study was conducted during the fall/spring semesters what effect this changed would have on the data. Sometimes students are forced to take online courses during the summer because their face to face option is not available. Typically, most university faculty are off contract during the summer months. I wondered further how often students take online courses out of necessity rather than preference when no other option is available. It is likely I will look for a study that tries to answer the latter question.
Zapalska, A., & Brozik, D. (2007). Learning styles and online education. Campus – Wide Information Systems, 24(1), 6. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/1065074071072645