The science of learning styles is based on the presumption that not all of us learn in the same way.
There are various systems or models out there, including David Kolb’s model, Honey and Mumford’s model, Anthony Gregorc’s model, the Sudbury model, and Fleming’s VAK/VARK model…and more.
Each model breaks down the ways in which we learn into different learning styles. Some models were created to address the needs of the educational system, while others are better suited to business.
And then there are those scientists and educators who think this is a load of nonsense, and that there is no such thing as different learning styles.
While I’m no scientist, I’m pretty sure that as individuals we all have our own favorite ways to learn. Or, at least, we have different learning style preferences, depending on the circumstances.
I’m a big reader and writer, so I tend to do most of my learning through reading text.
That said, I also consume a lot of business books through their audio versions. So I guess I’m also an auditory learner. Also, for certain learning tasks, I know I “get it” faster if I am watching a video or a slide show.
For example, if you launch a new web service of some kind, please don’t ask me to read 500 words of explanation, just show me how it works with a 45 second slide show.
When it comes down to it, whatever the science, I think it is true to say that while some of us may lean towards one particular style of learning, almost all of us can and do learn in a variety of ways, and also appreciate a little variety.
So as you sit down to create your content calendar for the next three months, plan to create your content in a variety of different ways. Don’t think just in terms of text.
Going back to the example of launching a web service, provide visitors with the option to read those 500 words, or watch the quick slide show. If nothing else, you’ll learn something by seeing which is the favored option for your visitors.
Also be aware that some communication tasks really do lend themselves to options other than text-only.
For example, if I come to your site wanting to learn how to clean my lawn mower’s carburetor, I bet I’ll learn faster if you show me a short video, or at least a series of photos. If you try to teach a complex, “how to “ task in words alone, you’ll probably end up just confusing me.
Another example of when text alone may not be your best bet is if you are trying to share information that covers a lot of ground, or a large time scale. If you want to teach me about the history of computing on a single web page, you can either ask me to read 2,000 words, or ask me to look at a single infographic.
Of course, you might want to do both. Use the infographic to give me the overview, and the text to give me more detail. I bet I’ll feel better prepared to read all those words after first being primed by the graphic. The graphic will give me a simple framework into which I can organize what I am reading.
The bottom line is that many people do have a preferred learning style. At their simplest, and within the context of web content, these styles can be described as reading, hearing or seeing/watching.
Try to offer up information to address these different styles.
And mix it up a little, so people can watch and read, or perhaps listen and read.
Most of all, avoid being a text-only website. The web is a multimedia environment, and you should take advantage of that fact.
NOTE: For a ton of ideas on serving up different types of web content, including multimedia content, check out my new book, 101 Web Content Ideas, Tips and Resources.