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Learning Styles and Tuition Dollars
February 11, 2010 - 11:33pm

In 2019 both of my girls will be in college. Our tuition dollars will go to the schools that figure out how to match my daughters' learning styles with the curriculum. And we are not alone. A generation of parents have come of age who believe passionately in multiple intelligences, and the requirement that educational institutions adapt themselves to our kids' brains as opposed to the other way around. We have seen first hand how our kids respond to the Web, gaming, mobile platforms, and their increasing ability to leverage technology to produce, share and collaborate. We see that learning content is abundant (iTunesU, YoutTube/EDU), while the scarcities we need met are educators and institutions that can add educational value for our individual learners.

Colleges and universities that invest in creating personalized learning opportunities will gain significant advantages in the competitive market for students.

Some attributes that we will look for in selecting a college:

- A philosophy to play to the strengths of its learners as opposed to correcting their weaknesses.

- The delivery of course and learning materials in formats (and on platforms) that are flexible enough to match a range of learning styles.

- An emphasis on supporting learners in finding their passions and in transitioning to creators and leaders.

Some things that we will not consider in choosing where our tuition dollars go:

- The U.S. News & World Report rankings. Rankings are for the median student, not my student. Your school needs to be the best for my student, not for all students.

- The dorms, the grounds, the gym, etc. etc. We expect these amenities. They are not differentiators.

- The number of books in the library. Books are not scarce, and my kid can only read one at a time.

Families that can afford the tuition to send their children to private schools or out-of-state public institutions will have a wide range of choices. Institutions that invest in learning technology, libraries, faculty development, and learning support systems in order to create personalized learning opportunities and individually tailored learning paths will stand out. We will want schools that allow our kids to develop expertise around their passions and strengths.

If colleges and universities wish to differentiate themselves as places where all kinds of learners can thrive then they will need to invest. We keep hearing about how it is too expensive to provide curricular content in multiple formats, or that introducing advanced learning technologies is too expensive to support. These expenses are opportunities, as some institutions will make the investments to position themselves for the next generation of students who demand a learning environment that support their learning style. Both academic computing and the academic library can take a lead role in positioning our institutions for the next generation of learning style aware students (and their parents).

How can we make the case that learning technology and innovative library programs will be a differentiator in driving the attractiveness of our institution to coming cohorts of students? How can we connect investments for innovations in learning to the bottom line concerns of admissions?

Speaking of kids, I'll be taking week of 2/15 off as the Kim family hits the ski slopes for our Winter vacation.


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