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|
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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.
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.
Reprinted with the permission of the Illinois Online Network. © 2007, Illinois Online Network and the Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois