Where Do You Learn?

4 minutes

Most adults are motivated to extend their education and learning opportunities with career goals. Promotions, increased responsibility, more independence in the work environment: these are all work performance opportunities that can be achieved through learning.

Where do Adults Learn Best?

Is a formal classroom situation best? Is a traditional ‘teacher standing up at the front lecturing’ kind of format most effective? 

The short answer is: It depends. The long answer is that it depends on what they are learning and why they are undertaking the learning. That said, the best results for learning are achieved when the information actually gets through to and is retained by the students. Training, regardless of the format, is for nought if the learner didn’t grasp the material.

When considering long term professional goals, a formal learning environment followed by informal learning opportunities that continue to build on the formal structure are effective. (Source) If you are aiming to change careers, for example, a more formal educational process would likely be best.

In reality, most businesses engaged in training their employees are not as concerned about the individual’s long term professional education as they are by the immediate needs of the individual in the corporate context. The focus is more on learning the latest and greatest technique, regulations, product knowledge or other specific area of inquiry that relates to the business. For this type of learning, a more informal approach works well.

How do Adults Learn Best?

Adults learn in three ways, but there is usually one style that is dominant for each person:

  1. Visual learners – those who learn best by being presented with graphics, demonstrations or even by reading. They learn best when provided with handouts, written resources, or writing on a ‘virtual’ whiteboard (or chat).
  2. Auditory learners – those who learn best by hearing the information. They will actively participate in discussions, though those discussions don’t necessarily need to be verbal. In an e-Learning environment, this could relate to a chat.
  3. Kinesthetic learners – those who are more tactile and learn best in a ‘hands on’ scenario. These are the least likely to benefit from passive approaches, such as sitting in a classroom. They will want to involve themselves as  volunteers, allowing them to practice what they’re learning.

What kind of informal learning approaches are available for each type of learner?

There are many ways that learning can be introduced in the workplace:

  • On-the-job training or shadowing a more senior staff person – for the kinesthetic learner, OJT is the most logical way to learn.
  • Webinars – for visual learners, these can be effective teaching resources
  • Podcasts – ideal for the auditory learner
  • Online chats – this format works best for the kinesthetic learner as it is more interactive than a passive learning opportunity
  • Lunch-n-learns – lunch time ‘short duration’ sessions with a speaker – both visual and auditory learners can benefit from the quick information hit that is provided in this format

The flaw in most of these informal opportunities is that they still rely on the individual participating, often passively, in a program that takes place at a certain location, date and time. Or, as in the case of a podcast, there is often no opportunity to interact with either the leader or other students.

Passive learning – watching a webinar or listening to a lunch-n-learn – is not as effective as informal learning options that allow for more interaction, whether that be online discussion and chats, quizzes, Q&A or other sharing opportunities.

Why E-Learning Makes Sense

Self-directed e-Learning opportunities are an ideal way to engage the learner on timely and relevant content in a way that they are more willing and able to consume it, since it’s on their own time and at their own pace. The e-Learning model can incorporate all three of the learning styles to reach students as effectively as possible.

E-Learning can and should contain interactive components, whether with the training leader or other students, via social media and other formats, but ultimately, the student is not required to be present at a certain place and time in order to effectively learn.

E-Learning combines relevant and timely content with an easy to adapt and self-directed method of delivery and interactive components: it is a trifecta of learning opportunities that businesses and their employees can capitalize on.

Do you have a preferred way to learn? Is there a method that’s been particularly successful in your organization? Share your experience in the comments below!

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