Adult Online Learning Styles: Recognizing Your Preferred Learning Style

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The Basics

When discussing childhood education, learning styles are usually grouped into four categories:

  1. Auditory learning
  2. Visual learning
  3. Kinesthetic learning
  4. Experiential learning

Workers in the college admissions field frequently rely on this understanding to help new college students to find their way through college by getting them off to a great start. The goal in the college admissions and counseling office is to ensure that a young student does not suffer from frustration to such an extent that s/he will give up on the education and withdraw from the college.

Adult learning styles vary from those of children or even young college freshmen. Whether they make it through a brick and mortar college admissions procedure or enroll for an online education at an online university, adults’ learning styles are actually perfectly in tune with the wide variety of multimedia applications currently available. This makes adult-oriented tips for being an online student, which are posted on many a college website, so important.

Sadly, brick and mortar schools generally fail to capitalize on adult learning styles. Rather than making good use of the various learning methodologies adults enjoy, they cater mostly to the visual or auditory learning styles of younger scholars.

Discovering Your Style

While it is true that adult learning styles take a good many clues from the learning styles defined for childhood learners, life experiences and greater maturity have created different approaches.

There are currently four adult learning styles that have been crystallized by the Alternative Dispute Resolution group(1).

  1. Hands on demonstrations
  2. Group discussions and peer interaction
  3. Case studies and analysis
  4. Role playing

As odd as it may sound, the online university setting thus far is far superior in its use of adult learning styles than brick and mortar colleges. Tips for being an online student abound and much of the information offered by various distance learning institutions is actually geared toward a more mature audience.

A Few Tips to Get You Started

Learning how to capitalize on your adult learning styles while attending an online university is the first step in ascertaining your potential for success. Start out by taking A Quiz to See if You Can Be a Successful Online Learner such as it has been defined by Bright Hub’s own Laurie Patsalides.

Next, check out how the online university relies on demonstrations with respect to information retention. With the availability of streaming videos, these demonstrations may be viewed time and again, making it the perfect learning tool to foster an adult learner’s interest.

Investigate the group discussion that is part of the class. Undoubtedly your online education requires interactions with the instructor, but does it also allow for forum posts and online discussions with peers? This is one of the most valuable adult learning styles as it allows you to learn from other adults and their life experiences. Since an online education allows for hours spent on online forums, it is preferable to the limited interaction available in a traditional classroom setting.

Case studies used by an online university may include audio reports, written evaluations, and also the opportunity for peer interaction. The same holds true for role playing. With the availability of multimedia presentations, adult learning styles are perfectly adapted to an online education at any progressive online university.


(1)Alternative Dispute Resolution group: