How online courses appeal to different learning styles

by User Not Found | Aug 20, 2018

By Amy Bennett and Lesley Neff, M.A. | August 20, 2018

I’m old school. I like the tried and true. So when Marian’s Adult Programs switched from classroom courses to all online courses, it’s surprising that I was onboard! There are many benefits from the student’s perspective, and let’s face it, online learning removes all of the hassles involved with getting to class by a specific time. Studying online is just more convenient for the students since courses can take place anywhere, at any time. Plus, they can review course materials repeatedly, and there are no parking struggles.

I’ve also seen the benefits first-hand. I recently sat through a training session where I started falling asleep. I couldn’t keep my eyes open, and my head began bobbing. No joke. It wasn't the first time I’ve been in a meeting that didn’t excite me, and it was sheer torture for a 'hands-on learner' to be lectured to for eight hours that day. Boredom with a capital B! 

We have found that many adult learners feel the same way. They don’t want just to be lectured to. They want to be totally engaged, and online learning is a great way to accomplish this. Online courses can appeal to various types of learners: 

Multi-colored, angled paper ball
  • Visual: Students who prefer using pictures, images, and spatial understanding.
  • Aural: Students who prefer using sound and music. 
  • Verbal: Students who prefer using words, both in speech and writing. 
  • Physical: Students who prefer using their body, hands, and sense of touch. 
  • Logical: Students who prefer using logic, reasoning, and systems.
  • Social: Students who prefer to learn in groups or with other people.
  • Solitary: Students who prefer to work alone and use self-study.

Instructors use many teaching tools within a single course so that their classes appeal to the various learning styles. Here are just a few examples: 

  • YouTube videos appeal to visual learners.
  • Auditory learners appreciate recorded lectures.
  • Transcripts are a welcome addition to a verbal learner.   
  • Hands-on labs help physical learners.
  • Games, quizzes, and activities help with logic and reasoning.
  • Discussion boards and group projects assist social learners.
  • Self-reflection through journaling is enjoyed by solitary learners.  

Skills are learned through repetition. You can’t learn how to play the piano without practicing, right? Instructors also use repetition to help students learn and remember various concepts in their courses. In an online course, instructors utilize repetition by introducing a concept then reinforcing that concept through the tools mentioned above. A marketing instructor may lecture on the 4 P's of marketing, have students listen to a podcast created by a marketing guru, and also include a fun YouTube video to show off cutting-edge marketing trends.  

"Any idea, plan, or purpose may be placed in the mind through repetition of thought."                                                                             ~Napoleon Hill

The online courses that seem to be most engaging combine a variety of resources that appeal to many learning styles, offering different ways to learn and absorb the concepts required to be successful. Regardless of how a student learns, there are resources available to appeal to all learning styles. There is a variety at your fingertips for you to review over and over again, at your convenience, day or night. 

If you are unsure of your learning style, you may want to check out this link to take a short, fun quiz. It’s important to note that just as students have different learning styles, instructors have different teaching styles. If a student’s learning style does not work with an instructor’s teaching style, it's crucial that the student reaches out to the instructor early on in the course.  

Give online learning a shot. I know, it may be easier for Millennials or Gen Xers to take the plunge to online, but even for us Baby Boomers, it’s a great option. Trust me, the water will feel good. Sometimes, you just need to dive in head-first.  

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