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Americans Prefer Hands-On Training in Educational Settings

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The majority of Americans believe hands-on training is the hands-down winner when it comes to learning something new in an educational environment.

According to data released today in the 2014 Learning in America Survey conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of Everest College, 52% of Americans listed active participation through hands-on training as the best learning method. In the telephone survey of 1,011 adults, visual demonstrations shown by an instructor finished second (28%), followed by reading from a text book (23%), using the Internet (19%), collaborating with fellow students (17%), learning by teaching others (16%), listening to a lecture (16%), and watching videos (15%).

“It is crucial for the future of our education system to understand what learning styles work best for all students, whether they’re young children starting pre-K or older Americans returning to school for advanced training,” said survey spokesman John Swartz, regional director of career services at Everest College. “When it comes to what learning methods work best, everyone is different, but the survey clearly demonstrates that hands-on training is favored by most Americans. Students who practice what they’re learning in a hands-on environment can often retain much more information when compared with sitting passively in a lecture room, so it’s not a surprise that hands-on training is the overwhelming favorite.”

More Women Prefer Visual Demos Than Men

While hands-on training was the No. 1 learning method for both men and women, men (56%) were significantly more likely than women (47%) to say hands-on training works best for them. The other major difference between the sexes was that women (32%) were significantly more likely than men (25%) to say visual demonstrations work best for them.

After hands-on training, the Internet was a big favorite as a learning tool among top earners, according to the survey. Those with household incomes of more than $100,000 were more likely to say using the Internet (30%) was a learning method that worked best for them compared with those with household incomes less than $35,000 (18%).

“Interactivity, I believe, is what today’s student craves, whether it’s from a professor, another student or from a computer,” said Swartz. “Using technology in the classroom, such as Internet-connected Smart Boards, which are used at nearly all of our campuses, is just one example of how to revolutionize the art of learning and connect students with the digital information they need.”

Not surprisingly, older Americans gave high marks to books, as 28% of the survey participants aged 45 to 54 chose reading from a text book as a top learning method compared with just 15% of those aged 35 to 44. When it came to the choice of listening to a lecture, 20% of college graduates said it was the method that worked best for them, compared with 11% of respondents who had a high school education or less. College graduates also ranked collaborating with fellow students significantly higher (20% vs. 13%) than those with a high school education or less.

“It’s no secret that students in the U.S. are falling in the rankings on global achievement tests, so it’s imperative that we invest in early education, retain the top educators, and identify the best forms of training programs and learning methods to prepare future generations,” Swartz said. “I believe one of the major benefits of tactile learning, or hands-on training, is that it develops critical thinking skills that give students the ability to make on-the-spot decisions in a workplace environment.

“As part of the core training at Everest College, we make certain our students learn through the hands-on training approach. It gives them a sense of accomplishment when the assignment is complete and is the most effective way for students to transfer a hands-on learning experience into real-world working experience.”

By the Numbers: 2014 Learning in America Survey Fast Facts

• Watching videos as a method for learning was more popular among men than women by a margin of 18% to 13%.

• Regionally, respondents who live in the Midwest were more likely to choose listening to a lecture (21%), compared with those in the South (12%).

• Hispanics were significantly more likely to say visual demonstration by an instructor (40%) was a top learning method, compared with whites (27%).

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