A common question we get often at Alpe Audio is about the differences between audio learning and visual learning. Many students, parents and teachers have heard about the existence of ‘learning styles’ and firmly believe that they’re in one camp or another. They’re either ‘visual learners’ or they have ‘to write it out to understand it’ (which would make them so called ‘kinetic learners’.
Unfortunately, learning styles is a myth, and actually doesn’t have that much to do with your ability to learn. In this article we’ll explore the myth briefly and dive into best practices to make the most of your auditory learning.
Daniel T. Willingham is the author of ‘Why Don’t Students Like School?: A Cognitive Scientist Answers Questions About How the Mind Works and What It Means for the Classroom’. In his book he eloquently brings the evidence that learning styles is simply a myth (a topic we covered in a separate post on audio vs visual learning). What matters to our capability to learning are factors that are far more mundane:
All three of these aspects come into play very often when we’re comparing how we learn, process and remember things when we’re learning in an auditory style vs a visual style.
This article is the result of my own hours upon hours of listening to audiobooks and podcasts. Wondering: are audiobooks good for learning? On the one hand, I love audio based learning. It’s convenient, fast and most important accessible. On the other hand, it happens too often that I finish a drive home, have listened to something interesting and well, don’t remember it.
What it really comes down to is implementing best practices for learning. Remember our three key aspects of learning according to Daniel T. Willingham:
When you plan your audio learning, if you really care about learning and remembering, you have to take those three aspects into account.
In visual based learning, a lot of those aspects are assumed, and while they’re often not actually taken care of, in auditory based learning, the assumption is the opposite.
There’s no actual difference between visual and audio learning for this one. We learn what means something to us just as often as we’re forced to listen to a teacher drone on and on about a topic we couldn’t care less about. Meaning is a function of how good a teacher is at making what we’re learning relatable and relevant to us. It doesn’t matter at all whether we’re listening or watching. Anecdotally I’ve seen audio based learning perform better here. Why? Because we’re adding a constraint on the teacher. Teachers who teach via podcasts or know their audience is looking at them know they have to be more interesting, more compelling, to keep their students’ attention. When we lecture in front of a captive class, we’re less concerned with that aspect.
Again, there is no inherent advantage to either medium of visual vs audio learning when it comes to structuring repetition. This is very much up to the student to structure how often they want to repeat what they’ve learned. However, it’s clearly much easier to repeat what you’ve learned when it’s convenient, and here audio is so much more convenient than visual learning. Visual learning, like watching a lecture on Coursera forces you to choose that web tab over the rest of your very interesting web tabs. Audio learning on the other hand usually slides right into a part of your day that would otherwise be ‘boring’ — when you’re driving or at the gym.
This category has a big difference between visual and audio based learning. Visual learning usually implies you’re focusing on just one thing — learning. While we know that’s not true and most students multitask to an embarrassing degree, it’s still different from auditory based learning where the assumption is the opposite: that audio learning is happening by default during a time when you’re focusing on something else.
What this means is that cognitive overload is a real problem when we’re learning with audio. Information isn’t processed as fully before we move onto the next topic. And most learners aren’t aware of this, and definitely not teachers. Which makes the problem compound.
“the learning is never quite complete because our brains don’t quite ‘get’ everything. The chunks of information don’t sit well. They’re not fully absorbed, simply because it’s a book, not an audio focused piece of content.”Are Audiobooks good for learning? – Alpe Audio: Courses online
To fix your cognitive overload and repetition problem you have to become an active auditory learner (or use a platform like Alpe Audio that has all of these elements built in). What does being an active auditory learner mean?
Is audio based learning that different from visual learning? The answer is no. They both rely on the same learning principles: meaning, repetition and avoiding cognitive overload. There are easy ways to implement all principles into your learning routine. Turn your audio based learning into active learning and enjoy the benefits of real learning!