Stop Worrying About Generation Z,<br>Start Thinking About Learner Preferences
Instructional Design

Stop Worrying About Generation Z,
Start Thinking About Learner Preferences

A comfortable learning environment for your learners can boost engagement and increase completion rates. But what exactly makes a learning environment comfy? In this post, we’ll break down the major types of training styles that your individual learners might prefer – and how to cater to them.

Learner Preferences: the key to a comfortable learning environment

Training used to be a “one size fits all” endeavor. Sure, courses were different from business to business, but within a single organization there was a single body of content to study, taught in a single way, and that was it.

Today, though, there’s a lot of buzz around alternative teaching methods, individual learning styles and how to best train members of each generation, whether they’re baby boomers, generation Xers, millennials, or generation Zers.

But, who said all millennials or all baby boomers are alike? And why would there be a specific set of “generation z learning styles”? Instead of focusing on generational-based employee training styles, it’d be much more productive to take a look at individual learner preferences and cater to their different learning styles in the workplace.

The different types of learners and their preferences

The concept of “training styles” came into prominence in the 1970s. This is the idea that different individuals learn better when taught in a manner that suits their learning faculties. According to the training styles (or “learning styles”) theory, some people are visual learners, others learn better by doing, others learn easier when taught verbally and so on. Let’s look at the 7 different learning types defined by Sean Whiteley and then see how to use them to increase the effectiveness of your training program.

Visual: learning is in the eye of the beholder

Humans are visual creatures. We get most of our information, an incredible amount of it, through our eyes. It makes sense that visual learning is one of the most popular ways to train people.

It’s also easy to take advantage of visual learning using an LMS. Provided of course, that your LMS gives you the ability to upload and serve video, images, and other graphics as part of your training content.

Video-based webinars qualify too (as long as they are visually rich), as do professionally made instructional videos, the kind you can find on training content marketplaces.

Last, but not least, YouTube videos can be great to incorporate into your training content. Your learners are going to be watching those anyway, so it’s better if you select ones that are relevant to their training.

Aural: hear me out!

While images rule, there are many learners that prefer some kind of aural delivery.

For some, it’s a matter of convenience. You can listen to audio content while doing other things, such as walking your dog, going for your daily jog, or cooking. That’s what millions do while listening to podcasts after all.

It makes sense then to deliver some part of your training in audio form, whether it’s a recorded live lecture or a carefully edited audio lesson.

Verbal: words, words, words

Verbal learners tend to favor the written or the spoken word (or both).

This includes people who love reading and who are particularly good at expressing themselves in conversation or in writing.

Verbal learners are particularly easy to cater to – any LMS worth its salt should be able to let you serve them well-written and formatted training content in textual form.

Give them the ability to study on their phone or tablet, so that they can read anywhere they might happen to be, and they’ll be happy as a lark.

The learner preferences and styles you need to have in mind when designing a course - TalentLMS Blog

Physical: learning by doing

Physical learners can’t stand being pinned down to a desk and having to read pages upon pages of material. They prefer to learn by doing stuff – that is, by using their hands and bodies.

For this kind of learner, instructor-led training sessions and physical examples can provide the best kind of training. If you’re teaching sales techniques for example, instead of merely describing them, you can have those learners act them out in a physical space.

Whether this happens in a classroom, or in their offices or rooms via video conference, shouldn’t matter.

Logical: it makes sense!

People who favor logical learning don’t care for the particulars of their training content delivery — whether it’s in audio, visual, or textual form.

What they do care is that they are told the abstract principles, and are given the analytical tools, to understand and think methodically about the subject matter.

These people need to learn the why and the hows, and the underlying concepts behind what they’re studying. Catering to this type of learners can be as simple as adding additional readings and resources at the end of a course. They’re sure to dig into it.

Social: learning better together

Social learners like to engage in group activities and to collaborate with other learners. They are in their element in a study group.

To cater to this kind of learners, you need to leverage the LMS features that encourage collaborative learning, by supporting features such as teleconference, in-person training sessions or discussion forums.

Solitary: Me, myself, and I

Solitary learners are the exact opposite of social learners. They prefer learning solo.

Online training is ideal for this group: they don’t have to go to class or meet anyone, and they can study as much as they want, whenever and wherever they like, all by themselves.

If your LMS offers a mobile application, that would be their dream learning environment: they could dive deep into their study material and isolate themselves from people nearby at the same time.


The key to improving learner engagement and knowledge retention is to not be concerned with the validity of learning styles as innate personal characteristics (that’s for pedagogic research to determine). Nor should you give in to conventional “wisdom” about which kind of training works best for each generation.

Instead, focus on the training styles that your learners prefer. Once you have determined their learner preferences, you can design courses that match them. And while you may not be able to include every training style in every course, you will be able to make certain tweaks if you know you have a few different learner types. And these tweaks can make all the difference.

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