Ridgway resident Kateri Drexler, co-author of the book Keys to Online Learning, (Pearson, 2011) has been involved in designing online courses for over 15 years. She offers these tips to students taking online or hybrid classes who want to know more about how to adapt their personal learning style(s) to the unique online learning environment. Her discussion of learning styles is based upon the theory of Multiple Intelligences, proposed in 1983 by Howard Gardner in his book Frames of Mind.
There are eight different intelligences that a person operates from to a greater or lesser degree. It is very helpful to make an assessment of your particular learning style(s) in order to be able to work from your strengths and grow your weaker areas.The following is a list of each of the eight along with Ms. Drexler’s recommendations as to how to optimize and adapt these abilities while learning online. A much more complete discussion of this topic appears in her book.
Logical-Mathematical: This person enjoys playing with numbers and figuring out solutions to complex problems. Developing graphs and charts of course material is helpful for someone with this strength, as well as the use of spreadsheets, systematically organized notes, and searching for the underlying patterns in what is being taught. To expand their abilities, the logical-mathematical student can learn to participate in discussions by talking over class concepts with like-minded people.
Visual-Spatial: This person is often artistic, a creator of pictures in one media or another. Making pictures to represent different terms or concepts, sketching pictures or charts/graphs throughout course notes and color-coding notes can be of benefit to visual learners.To stretch their weaker areas, these students can use their color-coded notes in their studying, or create charts with blank areas to be filled in from memory.
Bodily-Kinesthetic: These are the energetic people who love movement and working with their hands. To channel their physical energy, these learners can benefit from recording class notes on MP3 players and listening to them while exercising, running or biking. They can also act out the concepts they are studying and incorporate physical or virtual manipulatives. These learners often struggle with abstract concepts. Creating an actual 3-D map of ideas and assigning different objects to the various concepts being studied, which can then be moved around to physically represent their relationships can be a big help.
Musical: Where would the world be without these people to give us songs to sing and listen to? Fortunately for these people, putting ideas to music is one of the very best ways to remember something for a long time. Beating out a rythm as facts are recited, or using musical software to put study notes to music are other means of remembering class topics. To help improve reading comprehension, musical learners can summarize key concepts in jingles or songs at the end of each block of reading.
Interpersonal: Learners with strong interpersonal intelligence are skilled in their relations and communications with others. It is helpful to them to discuss course material with fellow class members in online forums or online study groups. They can also benefit from teaching what they are learning to others in their online groups, and staying in close communication via email, phone or online chat. To help these people learn without others being physically present, they can pretend to teach what they are learning to another as they go through their courses.
Intrapersonal: In contrast, these students prefer to study alone. They need a quiet place to study where they will not be interrupted or distracted. Personal notes or journals help them clarify their understanding of how the concepts and principles being taught in their class relate to them personally. A stretch for the intrapersonal learner would be to practice interacting in online groups and to reach out to others for their insights and feedback.
Naturalist: The learner with a strong naturalist intelligence enjoys nature, geology, classifying things and just being outdoors. Studying outdoors is not distracting but helpful for them. Looking for relationships and connections between ideas is also helpful, as well as learning to classify the information they are learning, and coming to understand how all the different parts of a subject fit together. To help this person overcome his discomfort with graphs and charts, making a chart of the patterns found in nature can help relate the outdoors to data and spreadsheets.
With a clearer understanding of his methods of learning, an online learner can make his studies more efficient and successful.