By Daniel Hunter

Learning through doing has overtaken a classroom-style approach as the top way to learn, according to a Skillsoft survey of learning styles of 1,000 UK office workers.

Figures released to coincide with this year’s Adult Learners’ Week (18-24 May) found that nearly one third (33 per cent) of respondents prefer to learn by feeling or experiencing, followed by just under one fifth (19 per cent) of those favouring a classroom-based approach and just over 17 per cent of respondents admitting to being visual learners.

The research, commissioned by Skillsoft and carried out by independent research company Opinion Matters, also found significant variations between learning styles of the youngest and oldest age groups. 26 per cent of 16-24 year olds favour a visual approach - looking at graphics, watching a demonstration or reading - compared to just 6 per cent of over 55s.

However, the over 55s are more responsive to learning in a group setting with their peers and having the opportunity to discuss and learn from others experiences. 20 per cent in this age group prefer this style, compared to only 5 per cent of 16-24 year olds.

“Just as the content of training sessions needs to evolve to keep up with industry best practice and new technologies, so does the method used to deliver it to make it valuable and digestible to learners," Kevin Young, general manager, EMEA at Skillsoft, said.

"Our research has shown clear differences between learning styles as a whole, but also between age groups and industry sectors. A classroom-led approach is no longer the de-facto way to learn, with people often becoming more engaged if the same content is delivered via different methods.

“We recommend companies take a blended approach to learning and use different platforms (classroom-based sessions, elearning, mobile learning) within their training programmes to ensure learning is accessible and valuable to all staff. Not only will this improve staff productivity and engagement, but less reliance on a classroom-style setting could also significantly reduce costs and travel time."

When it comes to industry comparisons, the legal and HR sectors have a strong bias towards classroom learning, with 31 per cent and 25 per cent respectively, preferring this style. This approach was least favoured by the architecture, engineering and building sector (12 per cent) who instead overwhelmingly preferred to learn through doing (40 per cent). The top method in the arts and culture sector was to learn individually with the ability for people to go at their own pace, in their own time. 30 per cent of respondents preferred to learn in this way compared to the overall base figure of just 12 per cent.

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