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Learning is different for every individual: what works for one person won't work for another. Your studying techniques might help you ace every test you take, but have no effect on your classmate's grades, because everyone has a different learning style. It's important to be conscious of these differences when participating in a classroom, whether it's online or on-campus, or when deciding whether or not to go back to school. Having a clear sense of your learning style is one of the key factors to ensuring your success in your degree program.
The 4 Most Common Learning Styles
While everyone's learning preferences are unique and can't always be defined by a specific category, there are four commonly-accepted learning styles that most individuals can identify with: visual, auditory, reading/writing, and kinesthetic.
Visual learners, as the name implies, prefer to absorb information through visual mediums such as imagery and film. These learners will enjoy a classroom experience that relies on tools such as image-heavy and text-light slide decks, charts, and graphs.
How to determine if you are a visual learner:
You have to see information in order to remember it
You often visualize words or concepts when you encounter them
You tend to remember people's faces but forget their names upon first meeting them
You enjoy art, aesthetics, and other visual forms of expression
You use color, shapes, and mind-maps in your note-taking and studying
When trying to navigate to a new location, you prefer to look at a map
Auditory learners learn best through sounds: oration, music, and conversation. These learners benefit most from classroom experiences that emphasize group discussions and lectures.
How to determine if you are an auditory learner:
You like to use mnemonic devices, rhymes, or tunes to help you memorize information
You like to read to yourself out loud to help you absorb information
You are good at following verbal instructions
You have an ear for languages and music
You excel at oral reports
When trying to navigate to a new location, you prefer receiving verbal directions
Individuals who learn best through reading and writing rely on words to absorb information, and so prefer to have course materials that are text-based.
How to determine if you are a reading/writing learner:
You remember things best by reading them
You rely on note-taking during lectures to stay focused
You enjoy classes where instructors give out written handouts or use text-heavy powerpoint presentations to supplement their lectures
When trying to navigate to a new location, you prefer to have written directions
You enjoy reading and writing in your spare time
Also known as tactile learning, kinesthetic learning is all about physical sensations: using your body, hands, and sense of touch to absorb information. Kinesthetic learners learn best through action and experiences—actually doing instead of thinking or talking about a concept or subject.
How to determine if you are a kinesthetic learner:
You prefer to learn through hands-on activities (such as lab experiments, model building, or role-playing)
You have trouble concentrating during lectures
You're good at doing things that involve using your hands, such as cooking, mechanics, sports, or woodworking
You remember things best through practical application
You use physical activity to help you concentrate (for example, playing with a small toy or stress ball, or doodling)
When trying to navigate to a new location, you prefer to get details on the landmarks you would pass in order to get there
The four types of learning described above are simply general categories, meaning that some individuals won't identify with any of them completely, or may relate to multiple. These people are what's known as multi-modal learners, who might have traits that fall into several different learning styles. For example, you might have trouble concentrating during lectures, but you use note-taking to help you pay attention. Or, you might have always relied on mnemonic devices in your study habits, but you also love to read and write.
Ultimately, it's important to focus on what you know to be true about your own preferences and habits, and not get too stuck on trying to fit your own unique personality and needs into one specific category.
Which Learning Style is Best for Online Education?
While anyone can excel in an online degree program, regardless of learning style, if they apply themselves and dedicate themselves fully to the coursework, it is true that some learners will be more naturally drawn to an online classroom than others.
Online classrooms tend to be very text-heavy, whether it's through class readings, written discussions with classmates, and writing-focused assignments. This means that an online education tends to be a great fit for reading/writing learners, whose studying preferences and learning style aligns closely with the structure of an online environment. Those who have difficulty absorbing information through reading, are not comfortable with written communication, and prefer interactive, physical classroom environments surrounded by peers might not find the structure they need in an online classroom.
That's not to say, though, that other types of learners aren't a good fit for online education - they simply need to be creative in how they approach the coursework. For example, auditory learners could read their course texts aloud when studying, or speak to themselves when typing out discussion board responses. Kinesthetic learners make flashcards of key information and review them while doing other physical activities (such as walking or on the treadmill at the gym), act out certain concepts covered in class, or find ways to apply course learnings to daily life and work. Visual learners could print out course readings and mark them up with highlighters to help identify key information, and create drawings or diagrams to help remember information while studying.
No matter what your learning preferences, an online education can be the right fit for you!
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