Utilising learning styles


Published on

Published in: Education, Technology
  • Be the first to comment

  • Be the first to like this

No Downloads
Total views
On SlideShare
From Embeds
Number of Embeds
Embeds 0
No embeds

No notes for slide

Utilising learning styles

  1. 1. Utilizing Learning Styles For effective Web-Based LearningMohamed M. Bouker Mohamed A. ArteimiAcademy of Graduate Studies Computer Science DepartmentTripoli-Libya 7th of April UniversityBouker@hiep.edu.ly Zawia-Libya arteimi@yahoo.comAbstract We present a model of web-based learning for teaching Visual Programming inDelphi, by adopting individual learning styles. A software system was developed forthis purpose where two learning models (namely; 4MAT system and PBL system) areimplemented. The goal of this research is to examine the influence of the two selectedmodels on students of different learning styles enrolled in a web-based programmingcourse.Students were randomly divided into two groups, one for each learning model, and aregiven access to a website designed specifically for this purpose. Pre and post-tests werecarried out.A controlled evaluation is currently underway to assess the impacts of the system onstudents programming skills as well as their attitudes surrounding the use of availableweb facilities.Keywords: web-based learning; learning styles; learning models; PBL; 4MAT.
  2. 2. 1 Introduction The integration between information and telecommunication technologies hassupported distance learning by providing learning situations that are accessible toindividuals at any time and anywhere. The issue of assisting people to “ learn how to learn “ has been an activeresearch area, and now there is a growing acceptance that understanding the waystudents learn is the key to improve the education process. There is a consensus thateach person has a preferred way of perceiving and utilizing knowledge, which indicatesthe way he/she structures and analyses the information. Therefore, learning will beeasier when there is a strong correlation between the ways in which new material ispresented to us and our learning preferences. Conversely, We will find learning moredifficult when there is a large disparity between our learning style and the mode oflearning. Hence, As teachers, our teaching methods reflect our style in learning, thusknowing our learning style will help us develop a strategy for learning / teachingstrategies. For the last three decades researchers have started to pay considerable attentionto learning styles theory. Although some researchers in the field of Computer ScienceEducation have adopted the idea of using learning styles in education, there is still littleresearch on the adaptation to individual styles in web-based learning environments[8]. This research investigates the difference of student’s performance with respectto the selected learning model, which will provide us with information about thesuitability of web-based learning in the area of computer programming, as well as theviability of incorporating learning styles in the design of web-based courses. A system named “WBLS” was designed and implemented to provide a flexibleenvironment for learners by adopting learning styles theory in web-based learning. TheSystem can be located at (www.delphi4all.com).2 Objectives The main purpose of this research project is to find out better way to design onlinematerial that is enjoyable and easy to comprehend, and enhances the learning process.The research attempts to answer the following two questions: 2
  3. 3. o Is there a viable relationship between learning styles conceptualized by Kolb, McCarthy and others, and the web-based learning with respect to teaching visual programming in computer science? o Are the learning styles models, adopted in this research work, equally effective for all students? Considering the importance of distance learning especially for large number ofstudents or when there is a shortage in teaching staff and tutors, we hope that theexpected results of the proposed research will be a step on the way to facilitate theeducation process and would contribute a positive add in the aspect of web-basedlearning.Three null hypotheses were developed for testing at the two-tailed α priori level of 0.05. HO1. There are no statistically significant differences in the mean WBLS class achievement scores among the online students when grouped by different learning styles for both Models HO2. There are no statistically significant differences in the mean WBLS class achievement scores among the online students when grouped by their gender for both Models. HO3. There are no statistically significant differences in the mean WBLS class achievement scores among the online students of the two Models. 3 Background Research 3.1 Learning Styles theory The term “Learning styles” refers to the ways individuals prefer to receive,process and present information and ideas. Some people, for example, find it easier tounderstand a new concept by reading a textbook, whilst others prefer a verbalexplanation. Likewise, people may vary in how they most effectively demonstrate theirunderstanding: graphically, verbally, or in writing. Since the 1970s the educationalcommunity has had considerable interest in the notion of learning styles. A number ofdifferent models have been proposed, and research in a wide variety of educationalcontexts has taken place in the past 30 years. As a consequence, the wide acceptance ofuse of learning styles in education led to application of such approach to web-basedcourses [1,4,5]. 3
  4. 4. In this research, two learning Models are applied, Problem Based Learning (PBL) andthe 4MAT System Model.3.2 Problem-Based Learning (PBL) The first learning method that has been selected to be applied on web-basedlearning is the problem-based learning. PBL could be applied in any learningenvironment in which the problem drives the learning. That is, before students learn anyinformation they are given a problem. The problem is posed so that a student discoversthat he/she needs to learn some new knowledge before he/she can solve the problem.However, there is an indication that problem-based learning method is appropriate forthe majority of learners [2]. Posing a problem before learning a new piece of information tends to motivatestudents and know why they are learning the new knowledge. Learning in the context ofthe need to solve a problem also tends to store the knowledge in memory patterns thatfacilitate later recall for solving problems (most of us have forgotten some material wehave learned during undergraduate study) PBL promotes students’ confidence in their problem-solving skills and strives tomake them self-directed learners. These skills can put PBL students at an advantage infuture courses and in their careers.There are many reasons behind the selection of PBL method such as: • It enables students to be active learners and self directed. • It engages students to work in groups and acquire very good skills in Problem solving and enhance their communication skills. • It enables students to learn for understanding rather than for recall of isolated facts.3.3 4MAT System ModelThis system incorporates Kolbs four learning styles and recent research on right/leftbrain hemispheric processing. As Kolb [6] described that each persons learning style isa combination of perceiving and processing information; McCarthy [7] describes fourmajor styles:1- Type One "Innovative Learners" 2- Type Two "Analytic Learners"3- Type Three "Common Sense Learners" 4- Type Four "Dynamic Learners" 4
  5. 5. A cycle is made with four quadrants; each student should pass all four quadrants tolearn the material. Each learning style can get the most from one quadrant but can beimproved by the other quadrants.Each quadrant may contain many activities, so the student will go through all theseactivities. Figure 1: Four quadrants of 4MAT model By passing the 4 quadrants, students ask the following 4 questions respectively:Why? What? How? What if? Figure 2: Four learning types(styles) - four questions McCarthy identified eight theoretical approaches to the learning process cycle,which format the 4MAT System Model [3,7]. 5
  6. 6. Brain processing, or the way in which the brain is able to take in and perceive theinformation is important in understanding learning styles. This area has to do with theconcept of left and right brain dominance . It is important to understand that both sidesof the brain are able to reason, however, they use different strategies and it may appearthat one side is dominant over the other. The 4MAT System is based on left and right brain hemisphere. The followingeight quadrants come from the four quarters times 2 “right and left brain sectors perquarter”(R) = Right Brain(L) = Left Brain Figure 3:The eight steps of the 4MAT learning cycle The 4MAT System has a distinction from the other learning styles theories; it takesinto account all learning styles in a single cycle of learning process, which can involveall learners’ differences. The question explored is whether 4MAT, as a learning stylemodel, can be applied successfully to a web-based course for computer visualprogramming.4 Methodology4.1 Participants The course is targeting students of the sixth semester in the Higher Institute ofElectronic Professions-Tripoli (HIEP): URL: www.hiep.edu.ly 6
  7. 7. The population of the study consisted of 30 students during the fall semester ofthe academic year 2005/2006.4.2 Domain The system was used to teach Visual Programming in DELPHI as a web-basedcourse instead of the traditional face-to-face method. The material is designed in twodifferent aspects, one according to the 4MAT Model and the other according to the PBLModel. To benefit from the electronic advantages, the course material is supported withpictures, sounds, animations and videos. This was a Web-based course in which all thecourse materials and resources were accessed and delivered by the Internet, and thestudent could access any sections or tools within his part (group) of this learningenvironment.4.3 Procedure The study was empirical and exploratory. In order to collect data on participantslearning styles, the instructor administered a questionnaire that takes about 20 minutesfor the participants to complete. Students were randomly assigned to two groups: a4MAT Group or a PBL group. A statistical analysis was conducted at the end of thecourse.4.4 The research instruments The instructor administered two types of questionnaires; the first was used toidentify each student’s preferred learning style, which is used in the comparison of thetwo learning methods. This comparison is expected to clarify: • Which group will gain better achievement. • Which learning method can offer a balance between different learning styles in a web-based learning environment. The second type of questionnaire was a Likert-Type survey administered at the end of the course to gather students’ opinions about the course and to see if participants enjoyed the course and developed positive attitude toward web-based learning. Pre and post tests were carried out as an evaluation method and the obtained results were analyzed as a basis of the research.4.5 System Architecture The WBLS system was built over IIS web server, ASP dynamic web pages andSQL database. VB Script & Java Script codes are used in addition to HTML code. 7
  8. 8. As a web-based application, all users interact with the system through a browser, suchas Microsoft Internet Explorer or Netscape Navigator Figure 4: Three-Tier architecture of WBLSWBLS Architecture is a three-tier architecture in the database realm. The server sidedatabase is hidden by the student Module and the Instructor Module.WBLS has a Modular Architecture. Its four modules, shown in Figure 5 are: StudentModule (SM), Instructor Module (IM), Communication Module (CM), TutoringModule (TM) Figure 5 : Web-based architecture for WBLS 8
  9. 9. Students accessed the course online by dividing them into two groups; eachgroup accessed only one of the two cases (PBL or 4MAT) according to the assignedusername and password. Figure 6:Lessons login page Figure 7: Sample problem Although the two groups are participating in different learning methods, the learningmaterial is the same. During the course, students were getting support from theinstructor all the time via the communication utilities in the course website.The main risk of any web-based course is the absence of face to face interactionbetween the instructor and his students, and to overcome this problem we implementedthree types of communication activities in the system which are : 1. CHAT ROOM in which students can discuss issues and help each other online and take assistance from the instructor in a scheduled periods. Figure 8: a screen shot of course chat room 9
  10. 10. 2. MESSAGING the system provides a built-in E-mail accounts to all students so that they can interact with each other as well as with the instructor in an asynchronous way at any time of the day. This utility is very important because there is no need for the two side of the communication process to be online, and the sent message will be read only by the actual receiver. Figure 9: A screen shot of messaging activities 3. DISCUSSION BOARD This is a very helpful utility to let students share ideas and solutions and get some help from the instructor.The communication activities were very helpful. At first, students were encouraged tojoin the discussions by sending them online messages and asking them questions at thediscussion board, after a few days they became more enthusiast and contribute to thediscussions to the extent that a lot of time was spent to reply to their questions andcomments.Figure 10: The discussion board Figure 11: Some discussion board shots 10
  11. 11. The instructor can manage the whole course through the administrator page in whichhe/she can manage students accounts (add, delete or modify), and control thecommunication activities. Figure 12: The Administrator (Instructor) page5 ResultsBoth groups have positive gains in attitude on the post test. A Univariate Analysis ofVarriance ANOVA test by learning style showed no significant differences betweenstudents in both groups on total attitude score. Therefore, the sub hypothesis was notrejected.The same test showed no significant differences between students of different learningstyles in each group (4MAT & PBL).Post achievement means scores indicated that the PBL group scored higher on theposttest. There was a gain score increase of 18.54 points in the mean on the post-test forthe PBL group, while the 4MAT group had a mean score increase of 12.24 points.A Kruskal-wallis test revealed significant differences on the achievement posttests formales and females in the PBL group favoring Females for overall achievement( p=0.025 < .05) , while no significant differences between males and females in the4MAT group (p=0.283).6 Conclusion and future work We believe that providing this programming course online utilising learningstyles theory was a great step in web-based learning research. According to results of evaluation survey filled by students, The course scoredover 3.96 for all questions (maximum score 5.0) on the Evaluation survey of studentsindicated extremely high satisfaction with the course, with the lowest score being 3.31. 11
  12. 12. Although the results of this study may not be generalized to the entire populationof undergraduate students, the results can still provide valuable information toeducational providers as they plan and deliver education program to students. Some good comments are reported by students in which will take place infuture. The research is still under progress, so replication study covering moreparticipants is undertaking during the spring semester 2006 to acquire more accurateresults. By doing more experiments and by adopting more learning models, we maydiscover a strategy to expect the suitability of each model to the participantcharacteristics such as: preferred learning style, sex, and dominant side of his brain.The system may be developed to automatically determine the participant’scharacteristics and adapt the lessons accordingly.7 References 1. Desypris, G. (2002), “Enhancement of Learning Process in Web-based Courses Using Combined Media Components”, M.Sc. thesis, naval postgraduate school, California. 2. Edward, S. N. (2001), “Evaluation of a constructivist approach to student induction in relation to students’ learning style”, European Journal of Engineering Education, 26/4, pp.429-440. 3. Gary, D. and Palmer, J. (2001), “Learning Styles and Web-Based Learning: The 4MAT Methodology”, WebNet Journal, 3/2, April-June. 4. Han, B. (2001),“ Student Modeling and Adaptive in Web-based Learning Systems”, Masters thesis, Massey university. 5. Knut, O.T.(2002) , “Mobile Learning Technological Challenges on Multi channel E-learning”, Masters thesis , Agder university college. 6. Kolb, D. (1984), “Experiential Learning: Experience as the Source of Learning and Development”, Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, N.J. 7. McCarthy, B. (1987), “The 4MAT System: Teaching to Learning Styles with Right/Left Mode Techniques”, Barrington, IL: Excel, Inc. 8. Wolf, C. (2003), “iWeaver: Towards Learning Style-based e-Learning in Computer Science Education”, Ph.D. Project, RMIT University. 12