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Multimodal learning

Multimodal learning

Table of Contents

Everyone learns differently. Some people respond well to text, some to images. 

Traditionally, corporate training paid little attention to these differences in learning styles, offering a one-size-fits-all approach.

But today, we know that multimodal learning approaches increase engagement and boost knowledge retention. 

At the same time, the shift to digital learning has made catering to different learning styles easier than ever before. 

Our guide showcases what multimodal learning is and why it’s so powerful for your organization.

So, keep reading to discover:

  • What multimodal learning is
  • The benefits of multimodal learning
  • Different types of multimodal learning 
  • How to apply the multimodal learning approach


What is multimodal learning?

Multimodal learning is a teaching method that combines different modes of learning. The goal is to improve the quality of learning experiences by matching learning modes to students’ learning styles.

What is a learning mode, you might ask? They are different information channels that we experience with our senses, such as sight, hearing, touch, and reading. 

According to the multimodal approach, when you combine these channels, learners are more engaged and retain knowledge better.

Because everyone has a different learning style, learning environments that use multimedia are a mixture of learning modes and are more likely to be engaging to a larger number of students. 

One of the most popular models to explain these styles is the VARK model. According to this, there are four different learning styles:

  • Visual: Learners who learn best by seeing 
  • Auditory or aural: Students who learn best by listening 
  • Reading/Writing: Learners who prefer reading texts and writing down information 
  • Kinesthetic: Students who learn best by doing 

So, the multimodal learning approach uses a lot of multimedia, such as pictures, infographics, videos, lectures, texts, hands-on activities, and demos, to provide learning experiences with something for each learning style.

Why does all this matter, though? We’ll explain that in the next section.


Why is multimodal learning important?

Companies today increasingly invest in learning and development. As the pace of technological and market change increases, learning has become crucial for companies to stay competitive. 

Let’s face it, though, if employees aren’t engaged in the training, you’re practically throwing money away. Put simply, when learners aren’t engaged, they don’t retain key knowledge or hit their learning objectives.

This is where multimodal learning comes into play. Research from Cisco has shown that learners who received lessons with a combination of images and text learned better than those who had only text materials. A study of English language learners found improvements in the writing ability of students when using multimodal learning strategies.

The conclusion is pretty clear—multimodal learning makes employees better at learning. 

But this training method provides some other benefits too, such as:

  • Increasing learner engagement 
  • Boosting knowledge retention 
  • Covering different learning styles 
  • Making learning more exciting 

In addition to all this, some students are multimodal learners. They have a strong preference for more than one learning style. As such, they have the most to gain from multimodal learning. 

Multimodal learning is a very natural learning model. In real life, most interactions are multimodal. Information is rarely presented just through one channel. There’s no reason that learning shouldn’t be the same.

In the next section, we dive deeper into the types of multimodal learning.


Four types of multimodal learning to know about

Multimodal learning types correspond best to the VARK model devised by the New Zealand teacher Neil Fleming. 

Different types of learners have a preference for one of these, while some people are multimodal learners who benefit from more than one learning mode. 

In any case, featuring all of them in your professional development and learning strategies will benefit every learner.


Type #1: Visual

Visual learners engage the best when learning content is presented visually. This can be in the form of graphs, infographics, videos, diagrams, etc.

As long as it engages the sense of sight, visual learners will take in information much better than from other channels. 

So how can you cater to visual learners in your corporate training programs? Start by incorporating plenty of visual aids in your training content (videos, interactive slides, infographics, graphs, diagrams, etc.).

Using color coding and other visual cues to emphasize key concepts and messages will also appeal to your visual learners.

If you plan on giving your learners assignments, make sure to include at least one visual project, such as multimedia research projects or making models.


Type #2: Aural

Aural learners, also known as auditory learners, are people who prefer to listen to learning content. 

Hearing input works best for them. This is usually in the form of lectures (either video or face-to-face).

Some other examples of multimodal learning that work great for auditory learners include:

  • Podcasts 
  • Webinars 
  • Audiobooks 
  • Debates and discussions 

There are some classic teaching methods that you can apply too. Have learners read passages from textbooks or an article out loud. When possible, use videos, podcasts, and even songs. 

For projects, speeches and presentations work best for auditory learners. So be sure to include some of those if you’ve decided to go multimodal in your learning strategy.


Type #3: Kinesthetic

This type of learning is all about being hands-on and doing things. Kinesthetic learners like to get their hands dirty, so to speak.

Demonstrations are a great example of this type of multimodal learning. Instead of just talking about a thing, show it to your learners. This can work especially well during product knowledge and partner training.

If your main content delivery method is online, there are plenty of ways to cater to kinesthetic learners. Using real-life examples is one way to appeal to this type of learner. 

Aside from case-based learning, try to prioritize interactive learning. Incorporating interactive activities in your training, such as branching videos, drag and drop exercises, or interactive assessments, roots training in the real world. This empowers kinesthetic learners to thrive.

Another way to engage kinesthetic learners is through site visits or field trips. For instance, have your new hires tour other departments in your company as part of their onboarding. This will give them a hands-on look at the company as a whole.

Practical projects are best for kinesthetic learning. You can use these as tests too. Have a sales rep undergoing sales training create a product demo video. 

This is also an example of multimodal learning where different modes intersect. That’s typically the case with kinesthetic learning, as it includes elements from the other modes. 


Type #4: Reading & writing

Reading and writing, they’re the fundamentals. Pretty much every training course will include a lot of reading and writing. We’re talking about text-based online courses, PDFs, documents, ebooks, and classic books.

Reading and writing assignments work best with this type of learner.

To engage these learners, it’s a good idea to offer additional reading materials for those who would like them. You can keep a handy reference of these with knowledge bases in your Learning Management System (LMS).

Out of all the learning modes, learners often see reading as the least fun, but that doesn’t have to be the case. 

You can make text compelling by incorporating other learning modes. Remember that the point of multimodal learning is to include all types of learners. 

Add graphs and illustrations to the text. Make the text itself more engaging with different colors and a clear typographic hierarchy. 

Stay tuned to find out how to implement multimodal learning in your organization.


How to create a multimodal learning approach in your organization

Are you ready to take advantage of the benefits of multimodal learning?  You’ll be glad to know it’s actually pretty straightforward. 

It’s all about including as many information channels in every piece of learning content as you can and clever use of multimedia in your training courses.

The days of boring lectures are no more. It’s time to embrace multimedia and learner engagement. 

A great way to get started is to add different media to your existing courses. Do a quick content survey and identify where you can add infographics, graphs, and educational videos. Then, think about having a recommended reading and resources section in your LMS where you can share interesting podcasts, videos, and other relevant training content. 

The blended learning approach is great for multimodal learning. You can share relevant materials through e-learning methods ahead of time and then use the face-to-face instruction time to debate and discuss. This way, you’re hitting all four of the multimodal learning types. 

Another way to include multimodal learning and stimulate all the senses is through educational games and simulations. This could be an online dialogue simulation to work on customer service skills or an interactive quiz with sound effects and a timer.

Many of the best LMSs these days come chock-full of gamification features. Games are multimedia by nature because they include text, images, sound, and interactivity. 

Get creative with training assignments too. For instance, have learners create videos and upload them to the LMS. Videos also combine different types of media—visual and sound. Audio projects, such as short podcast episodes on a subject, will engage auditory learners. 

If you’re delivering your training online, try adding a free text box so learners can write down their reflections, takeaways, and next steps. Instructors can use LMS reporting to check these writing assignments.

If you combine these different projects, you’ve got yourself multimodal learning. 

Before you go, here’s a quick recap.


Now over to you

Multimodal learning is a teaching concept that uses multimedia to stimulate and engage learners. 

Everyone has a different learning style. So, by including visual, audio, text, and interactive media, you can tap into these and engage your learners with training content that matches your students’ needs. 

The results? Higher engagement, better learning outcomes, and increased knowledge retention.

All you need to start leveraging the benefits of multimodal learning in your organization is a powerful LMS and a dash of creativity.

Ready for more? Take a look at our glossary for more handy resources to revolutionize your training strategy.