Training & Development Specialist, General Parts, LLC, Bloomington, MN
The Impact of the Pandemic on Learning Styles
A learning style is defined as the way a person learns, or their preferred way of “making sense” (learning) of the new material (absorbing, processing, understanding, and retaining new information or skills).
It was somewhere back in the 1970’s when researchers began theorizing about individual learning styles and the topic has been surrounded in controversy since. You could probably say that the way people learn is as different as people themselves. The diverse topic is filled with various models and numbers of learning styles (3, 4, 7, 8, 12, etc.), but this just means the different models are looking at the ways people learn differently; or they all use the same deck of cards, but each holds a different hand.
Use the links below if interested in learning about your preferred learning style:
Since everyone learns differently, the basic opinion I have is that it is important for instructional designers and instructors to understand how the different styles learn, and then, to incorporate course content that facilitates learning for the different learning styles into each course offering. If this is not done, some learners will struggle with learning, regardless of the subject being taught. To keep things simple, I think it is best to choose one learning style modal and stick with it.
Throughout my career in the training and development field, I have focused on 3 styles of learning: Visual, Auditory, and Kinesthetic or Tactile. Visual learners learn best by seeing what is being taught (videos, images, graphs, etc.). Auditory learners learn best by listening to the information being taught (lectures, videos, podcasts, group discussions, etc.). Kinesthetic/Tactile learners learn best by doing (hands-on through touch and movement) what is being taught (experiments, demonstrations, role-playing, labs, scenarios, etc.).
We must also remember that learning also happens differently. Learning can be either formal or informal. Formal learning is planned, structured, goal-oriented and instructor led/developed. Think of formal learning as classroom training, on-the-job training, safety training, compliance training, on-boarding, LMS courses, seminars, webinars, videos, podcasts, manufacturer training, etc. Whereas informal learning is unplanned or self-directed. Think of informal learning as asking a co-worker for help, having conversations with others, doing a Google search, participating in online communities or forums, reading a book, doing research on a topic, etc.
When looking at the impact the pandemic has had on learning styles. It is my opinion the learning styles have not changed. People still have their preferred ways of learning. What has changed however, is the environment for learning in how we teach and learn, the content being used to facilitate learning, and the amount of available formal or informal learning opportunities being provided. It was the suddenness, unpredictability and government mandates of the pandemic that forced these changes. Prior to the pandemic most of the learning opportunities within the commercial food service industry were face-to-face, hands-on, classroom sessions. The pandemic forced businesses and people to migrate to using technology and online platforms for both formal and informal learning. Our industry was not prepared for this transition, and many of our employees were unfamiliar with using the technology, so both businesses and people struggled with this transfer into unfamiliar territory, and many are still struggling today.
Today, two years later, we have many online learning opportunities available that were not available two years ago. I believe this is beneficial because it makes for easy access for those who need such training and eliminates the time and cost for travel. However, we still have training opportunities, once available, that are not available today. There can be many reasons behind this such as: cost of development or hosting online training, lack of knowledge for creating online content or transferring classroom training to online training, lack of time, etc. I believe that this a difficult subject that each business needs to address in their own way and find solutions that will work for them. Regardless of what environment the training takes place, the best learning will come from using the appropriate methods to aid the transfer of learning for all students, which can be done using the learning styles.
My hope is that going forward, those of us in the commercial food industry will find a way of merging the two learning environments (face-to-face and online) together, which can bring a win-win for all of us.
Bio: Ann Wegner, applies her passion for corporate instructional development in her role as the Training & Development Specialist for General Parts, LLC., Bloomington, MN. With a bachelor’s degree with honors in Instructional Design from Walden University, Ann spent more than 30 years working for General Electric on the Training and Development Team.