Learning Styles and the Online Student

Online education is defined as a course where at least 80 percent of the material is presented in an online format. According to U.S. News and World Report, the amount of college students obtaining online education has steadily increased for almost a decade. In fact, more than six million students are currently studying online. Across the board, every type of career and educational path is making the shift towards online education. Here are a few of the benefits of online education:

  • Typically more affordable for students
  • More affordable for colleges
  • Saves the time to commute
  • Increases a students’ typing and technology skills
  • Offers the same credentials as traditional higher education learning (as long as the college is accredited)

Countless college degrees across many career spectrums are available online, which means that students from different walks of life are attending college. Every student learns differently, and it is important for each student to be realistic regarding how he or she learns best, and how their learning style may affect their success during an online education. Here are four of the most common learning styles, and how you can accommodate your own learning tendencies as an online student.

Visual/Verbal
The Style: The visual/verbal student learns best when information is presented in written language, typically during a lecture when information is written on a blackboard.

The Study: Online college is a great fit for the visual learner, because most information is presented through lectures that are typed and/or written, absorbed, and then tested on. Memory-based learning is successful for the visual learner, so try these types of studying when obtaining an online degree.

  • Flash cards
  • Color-coded note organization

Visual/Nonverbal
The Style: The visual/nonverbal online student absorbs information best when studying pictures and graphs, and when presented information this student will often remember it by creating a picture in his/her mind. This type of student typically prefers to work in a quiet setting without a lot of distraction.

The Study: Online college is also a good fit for the non-verbal learner because lectures and discussions are often held to a minimum. When taking notes, be sure to try these helpful learning tips:

  • Draw diagrams next to each section of notes
  • Find a quiet place to study each day
  • Keep a regular study schedule

Auditory/Verbal
The Style: The auditory learner learns best from oral language and lectures, and often thrives in group discussion and projects. When information is recalled, the learner often “hears” the information in his/her head.

The Study: Because there is not much opportunity for oral language in an online classroom setting, it’s important for the verbal learner to make time for oral learning as an online student. Try these tips for online education success:

  • Ask your professor to chat via phone or video if you have any questions.
  • Find and/or organize a group study session with classmates.
  • Invest in a tape recorder and record your notes after you write them down.

Tactile/Kinesthetic
The Style: The tactile learner loves physical activity, and thrives when asked to complete hands-on tasks. In-class demonstrations and a highly active learning environment are where this learner succeeds.

The Study: The tactile learner may find the online education setting challenging, because there is little room for hands-on activity. Still, you can find success with these online education tips:

  • Study in small bursts of time to keep from being distracted.
  • Make time for daily exercise to help stay focused when it’s time to study.
  • Ask your professor for videos and other interactive learning opportunities where appropriate.

Regardless of learning style, every student can find success in online education. Keep these points in mind when pursuing online education:

  • Stay motivated – The big picture is your college degree and a better career.
  • Ask for help – Don’t be afraid to ask your professor and/or peers for help when you don’t understand something.
  • Think outside the box – There are many different ways to learn, so find the time, style, and setting that works best for your learning personality.
  • Avoid stress – Don’t give into stress unnecessarily. Instead, find outlets for stress to stay successful. Learn how to manage your time as an online student.

Succeeding in online college will take time and energy, but the challenge is definitely worth the reward. Self-assessment is the first step towards learning the best ways to study in college. Discover your learning style and work with it to obtain your college degree online.

About the Author: Nicole Brannigan is a freelance writer who lives in Nashville, TN. She has written on issues of higher education for more than a year. She received her degree in English from State University of New York College at Oneonta.

About Allison Freeland

Allie Freeland is the Editor-in-Chief of CollegeOnline.org. She has been a professional writer for a decade and received her bachelor's degree in Journalism from the University of Minnesota. She brings a wealth of information about higher education, online degrees, college life, and career advice. Follow her on G+.