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How SALT Can Help You Learn Online

Learning and education are critical to a functional society

Learning and education are critical parts of any society. Passing down information is a fundamental part of the human condition. It is a critical part of how we evolved from our more primitive origins and progressed from the dark ages through to the digital age. However, learning hasn’t always been an easy exercise for us. As information evolved and became more complicated and specific, the methods we employ to turn that information into knowledge has also become more complex and individualized.

This has sparked generations of great minds to deconstruct the learning process and give us better insights into the intricate system of the human mind. Theorists and educators, like Neil Flemming, gave us insight into how people learn through visuals, aural, reading, and kinesthetics (VARK). Academics and researchers, like Howard Gardner, brought us ideas like multiple intelligences and how to engage and reach a variety of minds by encompassing an array of learning preferences. Over the past few decades, we have started to see formal education systems, such as schools and institutes of higher learning, adopt more progressive understandings of the learning process and shift the methods of education to address the uniqueness of how we think and learn.

Fast forward to today, the formal education system that has been making gains in helping people learn more effectively by meeting their unique learning needs is now shifting to a new medium – online learning. Online learning or e-learning, is not only becoming the new normal for many types of education it is becoming big business. According to, Projections show the e-learning market worldwide is forecast to surpass 243 billion U.S. dollars by 2022.

This move toward online learning has a lot of benefits; fewer limitations of location, a greater variety of course and topic selection, and more convenience and flexibility in time and duration, just to name a few. However, these benefits can only really be seen as advantages if the online learning method works with how you learn.

What makes learning online challenging?

One of the challenges associated with the move towards online learning is that we seem to be starting over in our efforts to meet the unique needs of the learner. In-person or classroom-based learning has allowed progressive educators to meet the unique learning needs of their students by providing meaningful interactions and using multiple methods of instruction. Many online learning options haven’t quite figured out how to create the same amount of meaningful interactions or how to incorporate multiple methods of learning. Evidence shows that online learning is not yet able to meet the effectiveness of in-class learning.

Part of the challenge with some online learning, especially self-directed learning, is that it is often heavily dependent on reading and writing. Current online learning is similar to what formal learning was like decades ago, before we started to incorporate strategies like Flemming’s VARK and Gardner’s Multiple Intelligence theories. Online learning interactions cut out most of the personal interactions and can often limit the meaningful group-based discussions and personal connections that are essential to many people’s learning experience.

What is needed are new ideas and new strategies to help educators to create a better understanding of the complex nature of the modern online learner, which will in turn allow those learner take control of their learning journey.

There is where Roman 3 comes in

Over the past number of years, Roman 3 Operations has been working on new ideas and strategies to address the challenges of online learning. We have developed an experimental learning theory that brings together a collection of best practices from learning, intelligence, and personality theories and a strong understanding of how these practices work together during the learning process. This theory has been a passion project of mine, W. Coby Milne, since I finished my Master’s degree in Adult Education. I call this theory the Collective Operation of Learning Domains (COLD). The four domains of COLD are: Acquire, Process, Equate, Execute (APEX). We call our experimental theory the COLD theory of APEX.

The development of this experimental theory comes from years of academic research and the experimentation of applied strategies. While we still have work to do in the academic validation and in the peer review processes, we feel that we truly have something of value in the practical strategies, based on our current research and experimentation. In light of the changes to the world as a result of COVID-19, we felt it necessary to make the themes and strategies available to people who are being forced to engage in online learning like never before. The desire to improve the online learning experience for both the educator and the learner is what led us to the creation of the Strategies for Accessible Learning Tool (SALT).

SALT can support more engagement with online learning

A fundamental concept in Adult Education is critical reflection that can lead to a type of transformation in your learning (Mezirow, 1993). This leads us to the benefits of self-awareness in learning. Conventional wisdom and historical theories support the idea of self-assessment tests, like those used in Flemming’s VARK and Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences theories, providing a valuable critical reflection of how we think about our learning. When learners reflect on how they learn and develop a better understanding their uniqueness in cognitive preferences, they can better apply the strategies that will maximize their education. Studies have found a positive relationship between applying strategies that reach a student’s learning preference and increased engagement in the learning process, both in class and online.

This is the goal of SALT; to provide a simple and engaging assessment that identifies the learning preferences at different stages of the learning process. It then seeks to provide practical suggestions and strategies that can empower the learner to be more effective in their online learning, even if the courses they are engaged in are not designed to use multiple methods of instruction to meet unique learning needs and preferences.

The current version of SALT is designed to be a free tool to support learners with their online learning journeys. However, this only the beginning for SALT and our experimental COLD theory of APEX. The courses offered by Roman 3 Operations, both in-class and online, are designed with the best practices of the COLD theory of APEX approach and supports learners by incorporating the strategies and preferences identified through the use of SALT. Our goal is to provide the best learning experience we can through our learning projects. But what we really want is to help change the learning landscape and support best practice learning programs for everyone. The free SALT assessment will be available to everyone, forever. Furthermore, we will continue to improve the tool and the strategies it uses in order to support learning institutions and online learning companies around the world. In addition, we aim to increase the accessibility of online learning for everyone. As we have already said, learning and education are critical parts to any society and we want to do our part.

The Takeaway

An essential part of maximizing education is by designing learning experiences that meet the needs of the learner. Learning styles and preferences are an important part of meeting those needs. Roman 3 has created a tool, called SALT, to identify individual preferences and recommend strategies, based on our experimental COLD theory of APEX. SALT incorporates best practice approaches to learning that will allow individuals to the most out of their online learning experiences.

If you would like to try out SALT yourself, please use this link.

Roman 3 is an advising and solutions firm that specializes in inspiring progressive action, creating a culture of innovation, and assisting organizations in implementing transformative change. We help you build capacity, learn to collaborate, become progressive, and grow to your full potential. For more information on our services and support, reach out to us at

Three Essential Elements for Effective Training

Have you thought lately about your teaching methods?

How many times have we sat in professional development workshops or post secondary lectures and thought to ourselves, “Well, this is a waste of my time!”? Likely more than you care to count. On the other hand, if you’re a trainer/instructor/educator, how many times have you wondered after a class or workshop, “Did any of that sink in?”

There are all kinds of factors that influence how meaningful and engaging training is for learners. These include the charisma of the instructor, content knowledge, motivation of the learner and method of curriculum delivery. For the purposes of this article, I’m going to focus on the latter. While I can’t influence your charisma (at least not in a single article), and it’s up to you to do your homework to increase your content knowledge, I can offer some insight into engaging learners through the right method of teaching.

A little about me

You might ask why I feel like I am the right person to talk about effective curriculum methods. It’s a fair question. I have spent years working with the most diverse populations imaginable: PhD’s to high school dropouts, people who’ve never left their community to recent immigrants, former high-level managers to recent graduates, and students facing significant barriers like mental illness, poverty and learning difficulties. All in the same classroom! (Welcome to the wonders of community education.) To prepare for this challenge, I completed a Master’s degree in Adult Education, focusing on teaching “unteachable topics to hard to teach populations”. Yeah, I love a challenge!

Understanding how learners learn

If you’re like most of the trainers I know, you go to class with a PowerPoint presentation, explain the information on the slides, occasionally get everyone to brainstorm in groups, then share the results of the group work. Does some or all of that sound about right? Well, depending on what you’re trying to achieve, this could be effective, but odds are it really isn’t. Let’s see if we can fix that.

The first thing you need to ask yourself is whether you really understand different kinds of learning. In training, there are three common approaches learners use in acquiring new information:

Rote or Informational Learning: Memorizing or creating an understanding of information.

Reflective Learning: Using critical reflection to challenge past thinking or behaviour

Experiential Learning: Experiencing the learning first hand.

Let’s look at these a little more closely.

Rote or Informational Learning: While not the most engaging method, rote or informational learning is the best choice for content-heavy material such as safety training, policies or procedures workshops, explaining results of studies, etc. The learner needs content of this type to be laid out logically and explained to them, in the hope of adding to their understanding of the topic being covered. If adding to understanding is the reason for the training, then this is a very practical method.

This is best done using examples to provide a context for adding new information, using metaphors or similes to give people something to link to in their current understanding to which they can add this new piece of knowledge. In the classroom, this often looks like PowerPoint lectures, reading from text or articles, and a training method using steps or procedures.

Reflective Learning: This is all about looking inward and challenging your thoughts, feeling, and biases: the point is to spark transformation. The learner is given the perspective needed to not only see that they can change, but that they want to change. The key is to tie the new perspective to the learner’s personal experience. The goal is not necessarily to add knowledge, but rather to change thinking.

This approach is appropriate for topics like harassment or sensitivity training, health and wellness, marketing approaches, reaching customers, etc. Reflective learning is best achieved by really pushing people to think objectively about topics. This can be done using examples and stories from life to give people the perspective of another person, or by using exaggerated descriptions of everyday norms to put them in a new light. You are trying to give the learner the gift of perspective. In the classroom, this might involve group discussions, instructors promoting an idea or perspective, analyzing material for deeper meaning or context, or collaborative development of ideas.

Experiential Learning: Experiential Learning is best used when you are trying to build competency, skill, or familiarity with a particular method or system. The focus here is to be hands deep in the learning while the skills are being developed in real time. Experiential learning is appropriate for task mastery, skill development, building familiarity with a new process, and problem solving scenarios.  This is best done in partnership with rote and reflective learning. This learning often starts with the delivery of information about a process or procedure, after which learners are given an increasingly difficult task or activity to incorporate or practice the information. This creates an experience where learners can integrate new learning into existing knowledge.  In the classroom, this may involve training scenarios for a new method or process, group problem solving activities that incorporate the actual tools or materials that the learner will be working with, and instructors pushing learners to try and make mistakes.

Think about what you want the learner to learn before choosing a method

Understanding these three methods can allow for far more engagement and meaningful training experiences. The trick is to ask yourself what you are trying to accomplish with this training. Are you looking to add knowledge, challenge past thinking, or develop skills? Once you’re clear on your teaching goals, you can decide on the best approach to take with your students. Teaching to your strengths is comfortable, and teaching for the needs of the learner is commendable. But without understanding the best approaches to use for the material you want to deliver, no one is likely to get the most from your training–especially you.


Roman 3 is an advising and solutions firm that specializes in inspiring progressive action, creating a culture of innovation, and assisting organizations in implementing transformative change. We help you build capacity, collaborate, be progressive, and grow to your full potential. For more information on our services and support check us out at