The Importance of Multimodal Learning Preferences

When you think of ‘multimodal learning preferences,’ what comes to mind? For most, the VARK (visual, auditory, reading, kinesthetic) model learned in school may come to mind. This model emphasizes that individuals learn best using different modes or methods. Similarly, at The Center for Leadership Studies, we believe that learning is situational and that different individuals benefit from different learning styles.

Situational Learning: Understanding Multimodal Learning

Multimodal learning utilizes various delivery methods to teach a single subject. Just as with the Situational Leadership(R) Model, each style of learning can work or not work, depending on the person and the situation. If you are a learning and development (L&D) leader, offering multiple learning modalities to your training audience is critical to training success. A recent Training Industry report found that “Offering multiple modalities is vital for training success.”

The Four Most Common Learning Modalities

The four most common learning modalities used in the workplace are instructor-led training (ILT), online learning, virtual instructor-led training (vILT), and digital blended learning. Let’s take a closer look at each modality and how learner preferences fare for each one.

Instructor-Led Training (ILT)

Instructor-led training is a classic style of in-person training delivery and is most commonly used in the L&D industry. Most learners are accustomed to this learning style due to its similarities to the classroom setting. ILT allows learners to collaborate, interact with physical materials, and engage in curriculum discussions face-to-face. ILT is also free from technical difficulties that can come with other learning solutions. A recent study found that 55% of learners preferred ILT, and it was equally popular across generations.

Online Learning

Online learning is delivered through a self-paced digital platform. It can include solutions such as modules, gamification, and sustainment. The goal of online training is to provide a structured, self-paced curriculum that users can complete without the need of a facilitator or instructor. The benefit of online training is that users can complete courses at their convenience. Online learning is particularly popular among learners with many direct reports as it allows them to fit the training into their busy schedules.

Virtual Instructor-Led Training (vILT)

Virtual instructor-led training takes the ILT experience and reformats it to create a successful digital learning experience. The goal of virtual ILT is to simulate the feeling of being in the classroom with the added benefit of saving time. Breakout groups and group discussions, in particular, move quicker because learners are grouped instead of waiting for participants to gather during an ILT session. A recent study found that 21% of learners preferred vILT, and it was highly ranked among those with more complex roles.

Digital Blended Learning

Digital blended learning, or hybrid learning, incorporates elements of both vILT and online solutions. It allows learners to have live sessions with a facilitator and other learners while also providing a self-paced learning curriculum. The goal of digital blended learning is to provide both the collaborative, interactive experience of an ILT solution in a digital format while also allowing the learner to train on their own time. While only 12% of learners preferred digital blended solutions, that number is expected to grow as digital blended learning becomes more common among training providers.

Debunking the Myths of Digital Learning Experiences

Many L&D leaders are hesitant about providing digital offerings, but it’s time to tackle the three most common myths around digital learning experiences.

Myth 1: Learners will not be engaged using digital offerings.

A common myth about digital learning is that learners won’t stay engaged during digital live sessions and won’t complete self-paced learning. However, engagement depends on the individual’s learning preferences rather than whether materials are presented in-person or digitally. Providing a variety of solutions, rather than one, is the right approach, and a larger swath of learners can benefit from the type of learning that supports them and keeps them engaged.

Myth 2: Learners from older generations will not prefer digital offerings.

Another hesitation around using digital offerings is that a segment of the audience will be left out. The common misconception is that learners from older generations will shy away from digital modes of learning while younger generations will prefer technology-based learning. However, there is no difference in learning preference based on age.

Myth 3: Learners won’t connect to each other if they cannot see each other’s body language.

Some L&D leaders fear that the social aspect of learning will suffer if training solutions are digital. Communication between learners can be a vital part of learning, and connecting to the facilitator leading the training is essential as well. Ensuring that digital learning solutions, whether vILT or digital blended learning, allow learners to speak with each other through a variety of methods (video, voice, and text) is crucial. Creating time for breakout sessions, discussions, and guided reflection during a facilitation is also key to building interpersonal connections.

Importance of Meeting Learners’ Needs

Meeting learners’ needs, both in terms of how they learn and when they learn, is crucial to business outcomes. A Training Industry report found that “Training programs delivered through at least one preferred method are 50% more likely to be effective.” This means that the more methods offered, the more likely an organization is to benefit as well. The report also states that providing multiple learning modalities improves learners’ sense of work clarity, job satisfaction, and perception of supervisor support.

In conclusion, understanding multimodal learning preferences and offering multiple learning modalities is critical to training success in the modern workplace. By debunking the myths around digital learning experiences and providing diverse learning solutions, L&D leaders can meet learners’ needs and improve business outcomes.