the online classroom

Learning Styles

People prefer to learn differently. One student may be partial to studying for an upcoming exam using an instructor’s podcast lecture, while another student would rather study from the podcast’s transcript. These differences in the ways people prefer to learn are called learning styles.

As you take online courses, understanding how you learn best can help you study more effectively, communicate more efficiently, and help you develop your own ways to stay committed to your online classwork.

What’s a learning style?

silhouette of head with lightbulb inside surrounded by circles with various activities icons insideThe learning styles below refer to different aspects of learning. The first four describe the physical way content is delivered. “Logical” refers to how content is organized. The last two styles refer to the settings in which people prefer to learn.

  1. Visual. Prefer using pictures, images, and diagrams.
  2. Tactile. Prefer using body, hands, and sense of touch to draw diagrams, manipulate physical objects, or role play.
  3. Auditory. Prefer using sound, rhythms, music, and recordings.
  4. Verbal. Prefer using words, both in speech and in writing, to assist in their learning.
  5. Logical. Prefer using logic, reasoning, and systems to explain or understand concepts, and have a good ability to understand the bigger picture.
  6. Social. Prefer learning in groups or with other people, and aim to work with others as much as possible.
  7. Solitary. Prefer to learn alone and through self-study.

“I wished to complete an online RN to BSN program that would allow me to study from home and remain fully employed. I thought there would be some online lectures to view each week, but there was not. I was a little disappointed, because I learn best by hearing. However, my disappointment did not last. The quality of my courses was better than I had hoped, and it was a good use of my time and money.”

As you read this list, do so with an open mind. For starters, learning styles are not mutually exclusive. For instance, you may prefer verbal, logical, and social learning, or you may look for visual learning in a solitary setting. You’re not restricted to learning one way. Just because you prefer to study while listening to music doesn’t mean you’re incapable of learning without it. It’s just that you prefer to learn one way more than the other.

Long story longer, your online instructor will do their best to provide content in a manner that will be accessible to multiple learning styles (text, images, video, audio, interactive activities, etc.). That said, you may take courses where this isn’t the case. By understanding your learning styles and modifying them to best suit your needs and the requirements of the class, you’ll be prepared for anything that comes your way.


ACTIVITY:  Learning Style Inventory

Take a moment to complete one or both of the following learning style inventories to find out how you learn best.