Adapting Content, Assessments and Resources

“You must be shapeless, formless, like water. When you pour water in a cup, it becomes the cup. When you pour water in a bottle, it becomes the bottle. When you pour water in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Water can drip and it can crash. Become like water my friend.” ― Bruce Lee

Adapt content, assessments and resources to fit students’ technology skills, learning styles and communication preferences. When adapting course materials it is best to assume that the learners will be heterogeneous – that is, students are likely to differ in their style of knowledge acquisition, levels of technology skills and communication preferences.

Several categories of Learning Styles have been identified: visual learners, auditory learners, reading/writing-preference learners, and kinesthetic learners or tactile learners (Fleming, 2001).

  • Visual Learners – prefer viewing content (slide presentations, images and videos).
  • Auditory Learners – prefer hearing content (recorded lectures and podcasts).
  • Reading/Writing Preference Learners – prefer texts (book chapters, lecture notes and articles).
  • Kinesthetic Learners – prefer doing tasks (experiments, simulations and performances).

Learner Technology Skills will be an important consideration when adapting course content. While it is advisable to vary the modes of delivery (video, audio, text), it is also important to avoid erecting technological barriers to accessing the content. Instructors should be mindful of the technology requirements (software, hardware and expertise) that will be required of learners to participate in the course. Learner technology skills may limit an instructor’s ability to include more advanced and complex interfaces (virtual environments, simulations and games) in some cases. Also, technology guides for students should be provided (for installing required plug-ins, for example). Instructors should also be prepared to provide basic technology help.

Learner Communication Preferences will effect interaction in the online environment (instructor-student and student-student). Instructors should set up clear channels of communication and provide feedback quickly and regularly. Communication methods should also be varied and include email, telephone, video conference and text chat. Limiting communication to one method will reduce interaction in the course.

Accessibility is an important consideration when adapting course content. A good place to start when thinking about accessibility is Web Accessibility Initiative

Further Reading

Dunn,  R.S.,  &  K.J.  Dunn.  (1979).  Learning  styles/teaching Styles:  Should  they…can  they…be  matched?  Educational Leadership,36, 238-244.

Fleming,  N.D.  (2001).  Teaching  and  learning  styles:  VARK  strategies.  Christchurch, New  Zealand: N.D.

Kolb, D. (1984). Experiential learning: Experience as the source of learning and development. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

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