10 Facts eLearning Professionals Should Know About Learning Disabilities In Online Training
According to the National Center of Learning Disabilities, a learning disability is “a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, which disorder may manifest itself in the imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell, or do mathematical calculations". Research estimates the percentage of people facing learning disabilities ranges from 5% to 15%; a significant percentage that cannot be ignored. Learning disabilities may interfere with organization and time management skills in the work environment, and often they have a negative impact on employees' performance. Although companies around the world are making efforts to accommodate their learning disable staff, most organizations have still little knowledge or experience in terms of learning disabilities. In this article, I'll share 10 important facts you need to know about learning disabilities in online training, so that you will be able to recognize and support your learning disabled workforce, as well as help them develop new skills and succeed at work.
- There are many types of learning disabilities.
Lots of people consider dyslexia, a language-based disorder that affects someone’s ability to read, and sometimes the ability to write and spell, to be another term for learning disability; however, this is just one of the many types of learning disabilities. In fact there are many others as well, such as dyspraxia, dyscalculia, dysgraphia, and auditory memory and processing disorder. Learning disabilities should not be confused with conditions such as autism, deafness, blindness, intellectual disability, or any type of behavioral disorders.
- A learning disability is a lifelong challenge.
Whether innate or inherited, the effects of most learning disabilities tend to be lifelong. However, with proper recognition and support, your learning disabled staff can successfully complete your online training program. It is a myth that people with learning disabilities are unmotivated; the thing is that, more often than not, although they may even work harder than the rest of their online "classmates", their work results may not reflect their efforts.
- Learning disabilities vary from person to person.
While some types of learning disabilities can greatly affect a person’s daily routine, work, personal and professional relationships, there are some isolated cases that may not have such a direct impact on someone’ life. Learning disabilities may not be of the same intensity, as they are not all the same and neither do they affect everyone in the same way; depending on the situation, their impact on each person may vary.
- Employees with learning disabilities are usually of above average intelligence.
There is no real proof that learning disabilities are directly related to intelligence, but we cannot ignore that ... Einstein was dyslexic. Learning disabilities are often also referred to as “hidden disabilities”; more often than not, people with learning disabilities are very smart, yet unable to achieve academic success, which seems to be a solid indicator of high intelligence. Even if your employees do not have IQs of more than 160, as the famous German physicist, the gap between their potential and actual achievement, under no circumstances, is indicative of their level of ability to acquire and apply knowledge and skills. People with learning disabilities are bright; it is just that they have a different way and pace of learning.
- Self-disclosure of learning disabilities is rare.
Despite all efforts to create societies that are more open-minded and tolerant to difference, people are still hesitant to self-disclosure their difficulties. The same thing happens with learning disabled employees. Especially in online training, the impersonal nature of which discourages them to ask for help, employees are much less likely to let others know about their learning disabilities. This lack of disclosure makes their detection and support a challenging task for eLearning professionals.
- There are indicators of learning disabilities.
You may not always have the ability to modify your online training course in order to make it suitable for employees with learning disabilities, but if you pay close attention, you may detect the learning disabled members of your audience. A common indicator is not being “in synch” with the other members of the group; failing to answer simple questions, completing online training assignments and tasks late, making excessive errors in online discussions, asking irrelevant questions etc, may all be signs of learning disabilities and you should pay attention when you notice them, in order to identify the learners who may need extra help.
- Employees with learning disabilities may have difficulties with certain elements of your online training course.
Text-heavy online environments are challenging for employees with reading disabilities, whereas employees with visual discrimination deficits may have trouble with the excessive use of color, graphics, and animations. The way to get around it is by following a minimal approach when designing your eLearning course; make sure that you use a considerable amount of white space among columns, paragraphs, images, and graphics, to make the pages of your online course more readable. Furthermore, consider using bells and whistles only as an optional add-ons, so that your employees will have the opportunity to choose whether they want to see them or not.
- Flexible online training helps employees with learning disabilities.
Easily-adaptable online training courses are the best solution for employees with learning disabilities. Simply put, the more flexible your eLearning course is, the easier it will be for all of your employees to participate in it. Examples of building in flexibility are incorporating asynchronous eLearning elements into your online training method, offering a wide variety of assignment types, and always including closed captions in your eLearning videos. The more options you offer regarding the format of the eLearning content, the more able your employees will be to demonstrate their knowledge and develop the skill sets required.
- There is a variety of ways to accommodate your learning disabled staff.
When designing your eLearning course, apart from making sure that you offer alternative eLearning options to employees with learning disabilities, also consider following these tips: Avoid using distracting visual and graphic elements. Make sure that your eLearning navigation system is consistent, easy to use and has a clear layout. Use titles and headlines to organize your eLearning content in every page in order to avoid confusion. Last but not least, offer learners extra time to complete tasks and assignments.
- Feedback is essential when dealing with learning disabilities in online training.
Online training feedback offers a wide range of advantages, but it can be really critical in accommodating employees with learning disabilities. Maintaining communication with your learning disabled staff will not only allow them to get the most out of their online training experience, but it will also give you the opportunity to assess the effectiveness of your eLearning course in order to make the necessary changes and keep improving it. Use surveys or focus groups through which employees can inform you which parts of your eLearning course were most helpful and which ones failed to accommodate their learning problems. This way, you will be provided with the constructive criticism you need to improve your eLearning deliverable and keep on improving it.
Now that you know all the important facts about learning disabilities in online training, you may be interested in exploring more eLearning challenges. Read the article Top 5 Most Common eLearning Challenges And How To Overcome Them and learn how you can overcome eLearning challenges that have the power to hinder the overall eLearning experience.