Overcoming Learning Challenges with eLearning
Even the most brilliant minds can face challenges. Everyone learns in their own way, and sometimes, that can mean that people with an uncommon learning style or who struggle with specific learning challenges get left behind. For this reason, it’s very important to make sure that steps are taken to address their challenges so that they can also learn and grow alongside the rest of their peers.
When it comes to learning, a ‘learning style’ refers to the way that any individual person absorbs, processes, comprehends and retains information. The concept of individualized learning styles has become a well-known phenomenon in classroom management and education theory. A person’s learning style often depends on emotional, cognitive and environmental factors, as well as their own unique experiences.
There are four kinds of learning styles that you should be aware of:
- Visual – Charts, graphs and diagrams
- Auditory – Heard or spoken
- Read & Write – Text that can be read or written down
- Kinesthetic – Experience from doing, demonstrations, simulations, videos and movies of ‘real’ things, as well as case studies, practice and applications.
The VARK model of Student Learning is an acronym that covers those learning styles that were studied by educational theorists Fleming and Mills. While some people may learn best with a single style, some people often learn best with a combination of styles – they are multimodal! People who tend to be more flexible with their communication preferences and switch to different preferred learning styles depending on what they’re working on are considered multimodal and could switch between two, three or four style preferences.
Dyslexia is a unique learning challenge that stems from innate patterns of thinking and learning that are usually associated with high levels of creativity, problem-solving skills and three-dimensional thinking abilities. Although these individuals might face learning challenges in a standard classroom, they are out-of-the-box thinkers that can learn just as well as anyone else with the right learning strategies.
The most well-known struggle for dyslexic individuals often has to do with reading written text. In an experimental study, a team of researchers evaluated different fonts to see if the use of specific fonts could improve the readability for them. From their findings, they recommended Helvetica, Courier, Arial, Verdana and Computer Modern based on overall reading performance and preference ratings from individuals. Font choice for legibility is an important part for any reader, but it may be even more important for dyslexic readers who are starting at a disadvantage. Abigail Marshall, a writer at the Dyslexia the Gift Blog added her own insight on the matter, “I think familiarity with the typeface and individual letter forms may be particularly important for dyslexic readers. It may be that dyslexics are far more sensitive to minor variations in letter shape, form, and spacing. That they did best with the font sets that they were most likely to have been exposed to in the past does not necessarily mean that those fonts are the best for everyone.”
Aside from simply making the text easier to read, another way that dyslexia and other reading challenges can be overcome is by using audio. This can also be observed in the previously mentioned article, where the article has an audio option available!
Nowadays, digital innovation is making things easier on people who face struggles with reading. Audiobooks, for example, have become especially popular and are being used more often by students with dyslexia as part of a method that would let them read and listen at the same time. Audible’s Whispersync for Voice integration with Amazon’s Kindle ebooks is one example of a learning tool that has helped improve the fluency of struggling readers and increase accessibility to content that may have otherwise been inaccessible.
Struggles for Finding eLearning Opportunities for Learning Challenges
When it comes to taking classes and courses online, finding an option that will help overcome someone’s learning challenges can sometimes be difficult. Although Too Cool Traffic School offers a variety of eLearning features that allow students to engage and learn effectively, many other traffic schools and eLearning providers in other fields still use outdated practices. MindFlash has put together some common mistakes that educators make when they create online programs:
- Nothing but text on the screen
- No audio
- Just using graphics to fill space
- Not using tables
As you can see, those mistakes directly impact how well students with different learning styles will be able to learn and understand the material. Aside from that, those mistakes also lead to some of the top annoyances for the actual students!
For example, in text-based courses without narration, some common annoyances are:
- Text on the screen is small and hard to read
- There are full sentences on the screen instead of bullet points
In a course that includes audio, a common annoyance is:
- The speaker reads the slides in its entirety
Having a combination of auditory and visual learning is extremely important. However, it has to be done the right way! Think about the last time that you watched a teacher read every word from a slideshow presentation. Not only was it boring, it was also hard to pay attention! When learning is done online, it’s important to keep people engaged in the learning process. Instead of having all of the spoken word written as text on the screen, it is easier for students to listen and latch onto bullet points based on what was spoken. After all, text overload is overwhelming for anyone – not just people who have learning challenges!
Learning and Attention Issues
According to the National Center for Learning Disabilities, many people are affected by learning and attention issues — in fact, it is far more common than most people imagine. 1 in 5 children (or 20%) have some kind of learning or attention issue.
Many children, teens and adults may have learning and attention issues that go unaddressed. Although these people may be just as smart as their peers, without support and without learning opportunities that can work with and overcome the barriers they face in the learning environment, they can be more likely to repeat a grade, drop out of school or get into trouble, or struggle to find work as an adult.
Recognizing that many people never discover about the learning and attention issues that they have, it is important to have learning opportunities that are accessible to all.
ADHD is an acronym for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. This is a condition where differences in someone’s brain development and activity affect their ability to maintain attention and focus, self-control, and their ability to sit still.
It is normal for kids and teens to be easily distracted, restless, impatient or impulsive, so someone who acts that way doesn’t necessarily have ADHD. However, in people who have this challenge, they struggle more often and a lot harder with inattentiveness, hyperactivity and impulsiveness.
How eLearning Meets ADHD Needs
Since eLearning is done from the comfort of home and at a time that works for the student, it becomes an ideal option for people who have ADHD. In a blog on Open Forest, a mental health, self-health and evidence-based article hotspot, they explored the value of eLearning for ADHD students. The most valued part of eLearning is the ability to adapt the program to fit their individual needs — which allows more focus and less distractions.
Learning can be a struggle when one of the common struggles of ADHD is distraction from things such as noise, movement and bright colors. In a classroom setting, it’s hard to remove yourself from all of the distractions so that you can be productive. However, when you are taking an online class, it’s easier to control your settings. The class can be done at home or in a quiet library, or anywhere that the student learns best.
Multi-tasking or staying focused on a task can be very challenging for individuals with ADHD. In a classroom setting, losing focus can lead to missed information. In many eLearning programs nowadays, courses are designed to let you stop and start. With the ability to stop the lesson, they can come back when they are focused to ensure that they don’t miss any vital information. This is groundbreaking for people who can’t push the pause button on life when they are in a classroom!
Individuals with learning disabilities are an underrepresented group that face unique challenges. In addition to finding it generally harder to process and learn information, they may also face unfair criticism or judgment from other students (and even adults).
Depending on the disability, someone’s ability to learn and understand different topics may be extremely difficult — even though they may be still be smart and resourceful in other ways. For these individuals, figuring out the best way for them to learn and providing them with a safe and comfortable learning environment is paramount to giving them the opportunity to learn and grow just like any other student!
What disabilities can affect someone’s ability to learn?
- Learning disability
- Intellectual disability
- Medical impairment
- Mobility impairment
- Hearing impairment
- Vision impairment
- Acquired brain impairment
- Mental illness
- Speech disabilities
- Physical disabilities
- Cognitive and neurological
Education Barriers for People with Disabilities
When done right, eLearning can overcome education barriers that are common for people with disabilities.
When it comes to individuals with a disability, it can be challenging to work within the time parameters of a classroom. Depending on the disability, it may take a long time to get a student set up before they can even begin a lesson — and usually there is only a set block of time to accomplish setting up and learning. eLearning often saves time by allowing students to set up what they need in a more streamlined manner, while also giving them the flexibility to travel through the course at a fast or slow pace that works for their needs.
All of the books, lab and media equipment, pencils and markers take up a lot of space. Digital learning lightens the load, saves space, and makes learning more compact and lightweight. It also allows people to visualize and explore different locations or situations that are more difficult to reach, visit or see in person.
With the upgrades in technology and the use of the latest eLearning techniques, online courses can be presented in a more comfortable format for people with disabilities through the use of video, audio, images, and text.
With eLearning becoming a more popular and respected method of learning, it has become normalized in the education field. As eLearning expands, it also increases the range of opportunities for people with disabilities.