Previously, I addressed the different ways in which people learn best. I referenced the VARK guide to different learning styles, designed by Neil Fleming. He outlined four main learning styles: Visual, Aural, Read/Write, and Kinesthetic. Fleming identified many factors/dimensions that can also affect how well we learn on a case-by-case basis, but overall these other considerations and external factors are usually secondary to the four VARK styles.
I think of the four styles above in simple terms: See, Listen, Read, Do. People learn best in one or more of these styles and each person is unique, which is why I think it is critical that people be able to pick the learning style or styles that fit them best. The best learning content will encompass all four of these styles.
Many articles relating to different learning styles and effective methods of retaining information are centered on improvements in a school/education based setting. These may seem irrelevant for someone focused on Web development or IT training.
However, if you take the time to read some of these articles and think about the information contained within them, you can find valuable knowledge that will help with your ability and approach to learning and mastering web development and new applications.
One article like this is featured in the New York Times under the “Well” tab of their “Health” section. In it, author Tara Parker-Pope summarized a recently published book titled How We Learn: The Surprising Truth About When, Where, and Why It Happens written by fellow NYT author Benedict Carey.
The link of the NYTimes article is shown at the bottom of this blog, check it out.
Parker-Pope (via Carey) suggests that even though someone may receive good grades on an exam, that doesn’t mean that they truly or effectively learned the material they were studying (I am sure many of us have first-hand experience with this). The reason for this is that many people “cram” a large amount of information during one session, often at the last minute. While this may work as a short-term solution (like for a test the next day), it is rare for cramming to be an effective method for understanding and remembering information, processes, and concepts long-term. The brain functions better for long-term learning when it studies and practices things multiple times over a spaced-out stretch of time. Attempting to learn massive amounts of information in one session can overload it and sap its ability to categorize information as being important enough to remember permanently.
So what does this have to do with mastering Developer, IT Pro and/or Design skills?
We know the importance of understanding the best style or styles in which you learn (VARK). We also know that having access to content that spans all of these styles is invaluable—which is why we offer many different forms of our material—because it allows every individual to play to their unique learning-style strengths.
Equally as important to effective learning, though—as this New York Times article highlights—is more than just understanding your learning styles, and having content that compliments them: it also includes the way in which you go about taking in, absorbing, and remembering that content.
The amount of information involved with learning and mastering a new application or developer’s tool can easily become overwhelming if you do not have a solid, manageable approach. You may not always comprehend things right away, and sometimes you may need to revisit different sections of a training program to get a better grasp on certain content or concepts.
The best content should allow you to take things step-by-step, piece-by-piece. Online content is especially great because it allows you to revisit anything at any time, and from any location. Mapping out the most effective and efficient learning plan for you based off your learning styles, learning pace, and the content you will be consuming can go a long way towards helping you succeed in your career.
When it comes to online Developer, IT Pro, and Design skills, you should strive to learn as efficiently and effectively as you can. You should seek out the most accessible, diverse, and up-to-date training on the market, from knowledgeable professionals who truly want to help you achieve your learning goals. You should demand a training solution that offers a variety of different tools and styles—whether that be video, courseware and books, pre and post-testing, hands-on labs, “follow the expert” or “try it out” features, or even simply written training manuscripts for those who prefer to internalize through reading.
Pace yourself, and know that learning these different technologies and tools is often a marathon, not a sprint. Figure out your learning styles and use our training tools to play to those strengths. Don’t be afraid to review concepts you need more practice with, and if you are using LearnNowOnline as your guide, utilize our pre-tests to determine what you need help with and out post-tests to see how well you are mastering the material. Additionally, make sure you are keeping yourself healthy and happy outside of work too—whether that is through good eating, exercise and/or (especially!) sleeping habits—so that you are ready and able to focus on learning when you are on the job (more about eating and sleeping later).
Check out the article “Better ways to learn” at
For more info on the Vark Guide see http://vark-learn.com/home/
About the Author
Craig Jensen is the President and CEO of LearnNowOnline. Craig has led the company’s change from instructor-led classroom training, to self-study CD/DVD training, to the award winning online learning solutions offered today. Craig is passionate about helping individuals and businesses of all sizes solve their problems through practical learning and technology. He is involved in setting direction for the company, including selecting training content for development with resources to support all learning styles. He is also involved in The CEO Roundtable organization in the Twin Cities as well as the Minnesota High Tech organization. In his spare time, Craig loves to travel, golf, and partake in water sports of all kinds.