Knowing a little bit about learning styles can help you determine if eLearning is really for you. The interaction and delivery methods used in online classes are dramatically different from traditional classes, so understanding how you learn is a good part of the decision-making process. The knowledge can help you improve your study habits and be successful in any educational setting, regardless of what type of learner you are.

The three predominant learning styles are visual, auditory, and tactile/kinesthetic.

Broken down further, people learn by: Reading (visual), Listening (auditory), Seeing (visual), Speaking (auditory), and Doing (Tactile/Kinesthetic)

The first three on the list are passive types of learning, while the last two are active types of learning. How much we tend to remember is a function of the type of learning we prefer and our level of involvement in the learning. People often learn through a combination of the ways described above. To a lesser degree, environment is a factor too.

The Active Learning Modes
Given a good learning environment (be it online or traditional), most people tend to remember best that which they do – practicing the real thing. Next, a combination of doing and speaking about what we learn produces a high retention rate, followed by speaking alone. These levels of involvement are all active learning modes.

The Passive Learning Modes
The passive learning modes – seeing and reading – fall just below the active learning modes on the retention ladder. After speaking, the combination of listening and seeing produces the next best retention results, then listening, then seeing, and then reading.

How it all relates to eLearning
In an online class there is a lot of passive learning done through reading text, listening to audio clips, and seeing graphics, but the active “speaking” mode is done very much through writing, email, and chatting. Online learners are often self-directed and/or working in their chosen fields, so a lot of doing happens in the way of applying their newfound knowledge in their workplace, home or church. For this reason many online learners say they learn more in online classes than traditional settings, and have better retention, too.

As you consider online learning, recognize that everyone learns differently and attempt to zero in on the particular style you use best. Maximize your online learning by choosing the courses suited to your learning styles – and be sure to talk about and apply what you learn.