Research into the learning styles and preferences of students is well established but is currently the subject of renewed interest driven by a number of factors. First, following policies to encourage and facilitate widening participation, the student population is being drawn from more varied backgrounds, and greater emphasis is being placed on helping students to learn (Smith, 2002). Second, models of learning theory have largely been developed in isolation from the subsequent advances in the use of information communication technology (ICT) and its changing role in education (Sadler-Smith & Smith, 2004). The flexibility offered by online learning environments changes both the temporal and spatial dimensions of the learning context. Technology increases the physical distance between student and lecturer and imposes a technical aspect, which may be seen as a physical barrier to learning or may be perceived as a way of removing cultural and social barriers and therefore opening and creating new opportunities for dialogue. The impact of ICT on the learning context offers new opportunities and challenges to learners and instructors that need to be considered within the context of learning preferences. Third, the renewed interest in learning styles is perhaps also fuelled by the ease with which multiple modes of learning can be accommodated and combined using ICT. Within online learning environments learning objects can be developed and reused more easily, for example, short videos can be created without the use of extensive production equipment. This provides the opportunity for lecturers to reconsider their pedagogic strategies to effectively integrate the use of technology into teaching (Fisher & Baird, 2005).
Key Terms in this Chapter
Learning Approaches: A preference to approach a learning task in a particular way that is congruent with a person’s learning style.
Data Mining: The process of discovering knowledge in databases by identifying patterns and trends in data collected using classification, association, and clustering rules.
Cognitive Style: Characteristics related to personality that present a consistent set of preferences for the manner in which information is organised and processed.
Synchronous Communication: The sender and receiver are using the communication device at the same time, enabling an immediate ‘conversational’ response to be given, as if they were in the same room at the same time. A telephone call is an example of synchronous communication system.
Context Sensitive Computing: Access, delivery, and presentation of resources and content using communication technology adapted to situational and personalisation factors. The system tailors the selection of material to be presented to the student to meet the particular needs and preferences of the specific student and the device being used.
Blog: An online personal diary, which is usually hosted by a commercial service which provides a simple user interface to make and amend postings. A development of blogs and ‘blogging’ is the ability for other people to comment upon the postings of the ‘blogger.’
Learning Style: Personal characteristics that relate to how someone prefers to approach a learning task. These are considered to be relatively stable patterns of behaviour.
Asynchronous Communication: Communication through a technology system (computer and communication network) which permits the sender and the receiver to be separated by time. This results in a delay between sending and responding to the communication. Examples of asynchronous communication systems include e-mail, online forums, and cell phone short message service (SMS) text messaging.