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Learning Styles Online

— Illinois Online Network
Updated on Dec 8, 2010

Everyone has their own "style" for collecting and organizing information into useful knowledge, and the online environment can be particularly well suited to some learning styles and personality needs. For example, introverted students often find it easier to communicate via computer-mediated communication than in face-to-face situations. Also, the online environment lends itself to a less hierarchical approach to instruction which meets the leaning needs of people who do not approach new information in a systematic or linear fashion. Online learning environments are used to their highest potential for collaborative learning which complements many students' learning styles, and independent learners have also found online courses to be well suited to their needs.

Because learners have different learning styles or a combination of styles, online educators should design activities that address their modes of learning in order to provide significant experiences for each class participant. In designing online courses, this can best be accomplished by utilizing multiple instructional strategies. Below is a table of the most common learning styles. These descriptions reflect different channels of perception (seeing, hearing, touching/moving):

Learning Style Preference for information acquisition
Visual/Verbal Prefers to read information
Visual/Nonverbal Uses graphics or diagrams to represent information
Auditory/Verbal Prefers to listen to information
Tactile/Kinesthetic Prefers physical hands-on experiences

What is YOUR learning style? There are a few external resources that will check it for you.

Visual/Verbal learner:

These people learn best when information is presented visually and in a written form. In a classroom setting, they prefer instructors who use visual aids (i.e. black board, PowerPoint presentation) to list the essential points of a lecture in order to provide them with an outline to follow during the lecture. They benefit from information obtained from textbooks and class notes. These learners like to study by themselves in quiet environments. They visualize information in their "minds' eyes" in order to remember something. The online environment is especially appropriate for visual/verbal learners because most of the information for a course is presented in written form. 

Visual/Nonverbal Learner:

These people learn best when information is presented visually and in a picture or design format. In a classroom setting, they benefit from instructors who supplement their lectures with materials such as film, video, maps and diagrams. They relate well to information obtained from the images and charts in textbooks. They tend prefer to work alone in quiet environments. They visualize an image of something in their mind when trying to remember it.These learners may also be artistic and enjoy visual art and design. The online environment is well suited for this type of learner because graphical representations of information can help them remember concepts and ideas. Graphical information can be presented using charts, tables, graphs, and images.

Auditory/Verbal Learner:

These people learn best when information is presented aurally. In a classroom setting, they benefit from listening to lecture and participating in group discussions. They also benefit from obtaining information from audio tape. When trying to remember something, they often repeat it out loud and can mentally "hear" the way the information was explained to them. They learn best when interacting with others in a listening/speaking activity. Online learning environments can complement these learners' style. Although most information is presented visually (either written or graphically), group participation and collaborative activities are accomplished well online. In addition, streaming audio and computer conferencing can be incorporated into an online course to best meet the learning style of these students.

Tactile/Kinesthetic Learner:

These people learn best when doing a physical "hands-on" activity. In the classroom, they prefer to learn new materials in lab setting where they can touch and manipulate materials. They learn best in physically active learning situations. They benefit from instructors who use in-class demonstrations, hands-on learning experiences, and fieldwork outside the classroom. Online environments can provide learning opportunities for  tactile/kinesthetic learners. Simulations with 3-Dimensional graphics can replicate physical demonstrations.  Lab sessions can be conducted either at predetermined locations or at home and then discussed online. Also, outside fieldwork can be incorporated into the coursework, with ample online discussion both preceding and following the experience. Finally, the online environment is well suited for presentation and discussion of either group or individual projects and activities.

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