Online Learning Styles

Can I learn online? Learning happens differently for different people in different situations. How do you learn?

Learning Styles Overview

On this page, you’ll identify your learning style preferences using an index that focuses on college students’ learning styles. It is based on the idea that all students can learn, but prefer certain styles based on the course, its delivery method, and other factors. Understanding your learning style can help you better prepare for how online learning can complement and/or challenge certain learning styles. Finally, you’ll learn about strategies for online learning that address your learning style preferences. As you watch and listen, try to determine which student style is most like your own or whether you use a combination of styles.
  • You will learn…
    • That all students can use all learning styles, but prefer certain styles based on the course, its delivery method, and other factors.
    • How online learning complements and/or challenges each learning style.
    • Strategies for your online learning that address your learning style preferences.

What’s Your Learning Style?

man by fire with computer

Independent Learner

• Prefers to work alone on assignments
• Likes to work at own pace
• Studies what is important to him, not always what is important to the instructor
• Likes to develop own ideas about course content
• If he likes a topic, will try to find out more about it on his own
• Has own ideas about how classes should be run
  • Tips for Independent Learners…
    •  Independent learners do well online
    • Mature students lean toward online because they are motivated
    • Be careful not to become too independent
    • Remember to review your strategies with your instructor

Collaborative Learner

• Prefers to work with others
• Likes group discussions and activities
• Likes class sessions
• Willing to help others
  • Tips for Collaborative Learners…
    • These students do well in online courses
    • Has a high level of interaction which includes chats, discussion boards, and e-mail
    • Online courses vary in group-centered activities
    • Students may miss face to face interaction
    • May want to schedule face to face meetings with instructor or students
    • Be careful your help does not result in cheating or plagiarism
    • Review the student code of conduct and the class policy
    • When in doubt, check with the instructor

Dependent Learner

• Depends on teachers to state requirements, expectations, and what is important
• Completes assignments exactly as told


  • Tips for Dependent Learners…
    • Can easily become worried or frustrated
    • Become familiar with course resources
    • Consider study skills course or exploring time management resources
    • Read and understand the syllabus, instructor policies and availability
    • Set up a study schedule that fits your comfort level

Competitive Learner

• Competes with other students for teachers attention and to get a good grade
• Believes in being aggressive to do well
• Likes to solve problems before anyone else
• Being one of the best students is important to her


  • Tips for Competitive Learners…
    • Take care your competitive style doesn’t cause conflict
    • Ask questions that don’t embarrass others
    • Know netiquette and privacy rules
    • Review the Student Code of Conduct – sometimes competitiveness can turn aggressive
    • Don’t ask others about grades
    • Set grade and performance goals to compete with yourself
    • Schedule a time to meet with instructor to find out how you are doing

Participant Learner

• Finds online class activities interesting and worth attending
• Takes personal responsibility
• Does whatever is asked of him in order to learn
• Typically completes course assignments before deadlines
• Does all course assignments well whether or not he thinks they are interesting
• Usually completes optional or extra credit work as well as required assignments


  • Tips for Participant Learners…
    • Time management may be an issue
    • Use time management and stress management strategies on GPS LifePlan
    • Have realistic expectations of other students, understanding not all students approach learning like you do

Avoidant Learner

• Doesn’t want to attend most classes
• Often daydreams in class
• Finds class activities boring
• Paying attention during long periods is difficult
• Prefers to be ignored in class
• Seldom excited about material covered
• Studies just hard enough to get by
  • Tips for Avoidant Learners…
    • Need to have a serious success strategy
    • Meet with counselor/advisor or instructor about how course relates to degree and career goals
    • Consider a college success, study skills or time management course
    • Surround yourself with people who will support your educational goals
    • Make a weekly schedule that includes time online in class and studying
    • Use the GPS LifePlan study skills or time management resources

Additional Resources

Online Readiness

Learning Styles Information about the Felder-Silverman Learning Style Model

Resources from the Minnesota State GPS LifePlan site about Learning Styles