Why learning variety matters

Why learning variety matters

One foundation of student-centered learning is variety—providing learners with multiple ways to learn.
With the advent of online and blended learning, instructors can present students with a wide range of learning options. These include video (mini-lectures, animations), audio, interactive games, narrative learning (case studies and scenarios), writing to learn exercises, simulations, flash cards, formative and summative assessments, discussion boards, adaptive learning, concept mapping, and in-class group work and discussions.

MindEdge Varied Learning

As we’ve noted in the past, not everyone processes information in the same way. Some learners find video presentations help them master challenging material—others prefer text, some are most comfortable with visual aids.
There are key five benefits to focusing on variety. Students tell us that it:

  • Stimulates their interest.
  • Encourages their participation.
  • Engages them through their preferred way of learning
  • Supports their sense of achievement
  • Allows them to demonstrate their mastery in varied ways

We’ve also noted in the past the importance of planning ahead during the content development process. Instructional designers should consider the sequence and pacing of the learning. They should look for opportunities to introduce new and different learning elements. The pay-off will come in the form of learning that engages, entertains, and informs.


Helpful resources

Elizabeth F. Barkley, Student Engagement Practices: A Handbook for College Faculty, Jossey-Bass, 2009.
Peter Brown, Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning, Belknap Press, 2014.
Gerald F. Hess, “Value of Variety: An Organizing Principle to Enhance Teaching and Learning,” Elon University Law Review, June 10, 2010. (Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1796882)
James M. Lang, Small Teaching, Jossey-Bass, 2016.


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