Can we cater for kinaesthetic learners online?

I was discussing online learning recently and the topic of catering for kinaesthetic learners came up. This was an interesting topic. Something that has been part of the Twitter conversation in my personal learning network over recent months, and obviously for longer in the wider L&D community, is the research behind learning styles. Or lack of it… I’ve ‘scooped’ some of the articles and blog posts I’ve come across that highlight the lack of robust scientific backing to these concepts:

http://www.scoop.it/t/learning-styles-by-jo-cook

However, I still wanted to address the idea of someone who at least feels that they perhaps learn a bit better with practical activities or “with their hands”. I don’t think that this is lost in the live online classroom. For a start, if you do it right, there are lots of ways to interact: emoticons (such as smiley faces); feedback icons (such as green tick/red cross for agree/disagree); chat window and private chat amongst individuals for further communication; whiteboard for use with annotation tools; breakout rooms for smaller groups to collaborate; for individuals to take control of the computer (especially good for software and process training); using the microphone to speak and perhaps instruct other people’s actions; and others depending on your topic delivery and software. To me, this seems fairly interactive, practical and, dare I say it, a little kinaesthetic!

There is the argument about how much practical skill can be delivered in a live online classroom. That’s a bigger discussion for another day – however I don’t see any reason why you can’t facilitate a good interactive discussion to get people to think about practical things. Swimming is a simple example. It’s best in the water, but there’s no reason we can’t talk about you focusing on ensuring that, during back stroke, your little fingers enter the water first, or to focus on using your middle back and lower shoulder muscles to get a stronger stroke. A lot of the training that provided doesn’t get you to directly ‘swim’ but looks at the component pieces of knowledge, attitude, behaviour and other practicalities for you to go and put into practice. So why should online not be able to do those things too?

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