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What Models of Intelligence Tell Us About eLearning Strategy

If you ask any K-12 educator the best way to reach all learners, Howard Gardner’s research from 1983 will ultimately cross their lips. Why would corporate training or eLearning be any different? Short answer: It’s not. What works for the human brain doesn’t just stop working upon the completion of childhood and adolescence. And coincidentally, eLearning is a natural fit to incorporate Gardner’s findings.

Gardner’s work posits that every individual has eight intelligences hard-wired in our brains that help us get to comprehension. Though we all use each of these intelligences with various levels of effectiveness (we often depend on our agility and success with our “favorite” intelligences to get us by). But nonetheless, we all have all eight:

The best learning actually comes when as many of these modalities are triggered at once.

  • Verbal-linguistic
  • Logical-mathematical
  • Visual-spacial
  • Musical
  • Naturalistic
  • Bodily-kinesthetic
  • Interpersonal
  • Intrapersonal

Implications for eLearning

The days of sending a huge document to employees to absorb and deem them “trained” are no more. First of all, it was ineffective, and we all knew it. But why was it ineffective? First is the issue of maintaining interest, and here again, Gardner proves most useful: Initiating learning through multiple intelligences at a time actually keeps people interested – go figure. The more you engage the different senses, the more people remain engaged. That being said, Gardner’s research also supports the effectiveness of learning when multiple senses are engaged. In other words, the learning outcomes are actually better, not just the level of interest for the learner.

eLearning easily goes beyond the “sage on the stage” method.

Additionally, the problem in a given “training” or classroom lies in trying to reach as many learners as possible through as many of the eight intelligences as possible. Research has found that while we all tend to favor certain intelligences – those that feel most natural or easy for us – the best learning actually comes when as many of these modalities are triggered at once. Stimulating the multiple intelligences we all house increases understanding and retention of information. Sounds like a method worth exploring if you want good results in employee training.

Ideally, any form of education and training is going to utilize as many of the multiple intelligences as possible, and this is where eLearning can work its magic in ways instructor-led training cannot. Throughout time, education has been biased toward linguistic methods of learning, which shoves a lot of people in a certain learning style, especially in terms of lecture-based education formats. eLearning, on the other hand, has taken Gardner’s ideas and run with them. For instance, gamification in learning has only better served to reach more learners – and more effectively.

eLearning Best Practices

eLearning easily goes beyond the “sage on the stage” method. For example, participants can…

  • Roll-play scenarios and make decisions with a variety of outcomes – almost a “choose your own adventure” with work-related consequences (interpersonal, intrapersonal, verbal-linguistic, and logical-mathematical intelligences)
  • Engage in graph and data manipulation (logical-mathematical, visual-spacial intelligences)
  • Try their hand at gamified learning (bodily-kinesthetic, visual-spacial intelligences)
  • Have multiple senses reached through music, images, motion graphics, narrated text, and color (musical, naturalistic, visual-spacial, verbal-linguistic intelligences)

The task for a training consultant to weave all of these modes of learning together while students are gathered in a large group of corporate learners seems daunting. But, eLearning strategies may yield those results by streamlining Gardner’s research with the ease and effectiveness to reach as many corporate learners as possible and save the time it takes to drag them all away from work; money well-spent on better education.