What's Multimodal Learning and Why Do You Need it in 2022?

Paula Naba ·

Jan 20, 2022

Not all customers, employees, gig workers or channel partners learn in the same way.

For some, reading about a topic is enough to understand it.

Others may need to hear the information.

Some may prefer visuals — like an infographic or video — while others need something more hands-on, like instructor-led training.

These differences are why you need to consider multimodal learning when building out any online learning program. 

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What’s Multimodal Learning? 

Multimodal learning suggests that people learn better when they consume the content in different ways (e.g., visual, aural, read and write, and kinesthetic). The idea is that people can choose which type of content works best for them, thus giving them a better experience and chance to retain the information.

Why’s Multimodal Learning Important?

Regardless of the size of your learning program, it's a forgone conclusion that no two people will learn in exactly the same way.

It's just not possible, especially if you're talking to different generations. 

Think about the gig economy, which attracts people of all ages. An onboarding program aimed to get them up to speed that only includes content accessible via learning paths may be fine for younger generations, but not ideal for those who aren't as comfortable with technology. 

So, what happens? 

The younger generation thrives in the gig economy, while those outside of it become frustrated, abandon the training and find another way to earn extra income.  

Differences exist for learners from the same generation, too. It's just the reality; people learn differently. 

So, if your learning program only delivers content that includes one of the modalities (aka senses), someone who's looking to you for guidance won't be able to really get it. 

See the problem? 

To deliver a truly useful learning program, you need to consider what everyone needs, which is what multimodal learning does; it ensures you're providing courses and content that gives everyone a chance to benefit from the content.

Types of Multimodal Learning

There are four types of multimodal learning, often referred to as the VARK learning model:

  • Visual
  • Aural
  • Read/Write 
  • Kinesthetic 

VARK Learning Styles

Visual Learning

Visual learners prefer you to present them with information via pictures, photos, artwork, text, graphs, infographics, etc. Said another way, the learner needs to actually see the information to process and retain it.

Auditory Learning

Auditory learners do best when they can hear you delivering the content. The aural input they prefer can come from sounds, stories, discussions, podcasts, in-person lectures, face-to-face instruction and more. Auditory learners also tend to do well in group discussions and debates. Give them something to listen to and allow them the opportunity to verbally react to what they’re learning — this will help drive the overall topic home.

Read and Writing

Those with a preference for the reading and writing modality excel when they can physically read the content, often paired with note-taking. For these people, text-based courses are ideal since they can really consume the content and enrich that with notes or annotations. Written assignments and assessments fall under this modality, too.

Kinesthetic Learning

Kinesthetic learners enjoy learning through doing. These people thrive when you give them a hands-on approach — think in-person training. Kinesthetic learners will take everything in at a site visit and get the most out of the experience. Essentially, these people love to have a sandbox to play in.

When considering the VARK learning model, it's important to understand that while some people will fall into one category, most will need at least two — think of them as multimodal learners.

When you use multimodal learning, you know that you're providing everyone an opportunity to learn, regardless of where they fall on the VARK scale.

Multimodal Learning Example

Let's say you're revamping your customer onboarding strategy and want to make sure every customer has the content presented in a way that they prefer. 

So, what do you do? Let's break down what this could look like.  

  • Visual: An infographic outlining, from a high level, the entire onboarding process. For example, on Day 1, you do X. On Day 30, you do X. 
  • Auditory: A video or podcast episode from an existing customer talking about their onboarding experience and what they would have done differently. 
  • Reading and Writing: An in-depth guide that covers the ins and outs of a product or feature. After reading, the customer must test their knowledge with a written, albeit not-too-long, assessment. 
  • Kinesthetic: An instructor-led training that requires the customer to use the product or feature at hand. 

If this sounds like a huge lift, it's not. 

Let's say you have an existing YouTube video that breaks down your product. 

Great. Take that and separate it into a few blog posts. Then, team up with a subject matter expert to record it in a podcast-esque way. 

Finally, take the video and create a quiz. 

See? Not too bad.

You took a piece of content and with a relatively low lift, created three more. Now, you have all of your bases covered. 

Multimodal Learning With a Learning Management System

Knowing you need multimodal learning is important. What's even more important, however, is finding the right learning management system that can seamlessly deliver these different types of content. 

Northpass does that. 

Do you want to learn more about how Northpass can help you take advantage of multimodal learning? Reach out today and a Northpassian will be in touch. 

Book a Demo


About the Author

Paula Naba

Paula Naba manages customer success at Northpass, creating an amazing and memorable experience in each stage of a customer's journey. Aside from being a Northpass customer advocate, Paula is an outdoor enthusiast. She loves spending time outside with her family and labrador.

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