Using Learning Styles to Differentiate: A Usability Study of a Teacher Resource Website [4/18/2017] by Jennifer Smith (Featured LTEC Master Student)

By Mae Dorado (TCC 2017 guest blogger, Online LTEC Master Student)

New to the TCC experience and not knowing what to expect… it was interesting to attend the Master student project sessions. One presenter whose topic really captured my attention was Jennifer Smith’s topic on differentiation of learning styles in a usability study.

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Her passion and enthusiasm for this topic was obvious as she greeted everyone with a warm and friendly “Aloha” and started with a fun and engaging poll to learn more about her audience. The poll gave the audience the opportunity to learn about what everyone’s favorite subject was in school and how we preferred to learn. Using the blackboard collaborate pen tool, we discovered that the audience’s favorite subjects were math, art, science, physical education and social studies; 5 out of 6 of the subjects were selected, and the majority of the audience valued seeing and doing as preferred methods of learning over writing.

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Based on this activity, and what captured my attention, was her explanation with the slide to the right; she was able to deduce that “Everyone prefers different subjects and has different ways of learning” and “Each person has a learning style as individual as a signature.”
As a fellow educator, I could relate to her reasoning for implementing this topic as her Masters Project. As she elaborated, the problem started because teachers were highly encouraged to differentiate instruction; without the adequate time to plan and develop the instruction. I agreed with her deduction that “time is a commodity for every educator.”

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She went on to explain in her web design, as captured on the left, that it should include “aesthetically pleasing, clear and engaging images to most effectively engage users.” Her target audience included K-12 and home educators, and I was impressed by her display of primary tools used, such as, Pow Toon, Shutterstock and Google to mention a few.

In covering her site content, it should be “self-evident, obvious, and self-explanatory to users.” She included information about the different learning styles, learning style assessment, and specific teaching strategies for each learning style.

Her analysis of her usability results helped her to identify and prioritize problems and issues and how to fix the problems.

Overall her presentation was excellent. It was short and sweet, with a particular focus on the design and methods of improvement to her design.

Jennifer was extremely helpful to learn from. As a new Masters Student, it is challenging to decide which direction I want to take for my own Master’s project. However, Jennifer’s presentation simplified the process and gave students wonderful ideas to help with their project focus. It truly was a worthwhile experience to attend especially if a student considers a usability study.

The take home message from this session, as Jennifer pointed out in the end, was “What makes sense to a designer, doesn’t always make sense to the user.” Keep your audience in mind when building your instructional design.

Jennifer Smith may be reached at

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