Accommodating the Learning
Styles of Students in
Web-Based Instruction
Credence Baker
Tarleton State University
Nature of the Research
 This study sought to determine the
learning styles of 192 students enrolled in
22 online classes at Tarleton State
University using the Grasha-Riechmann
Student Learning Style Scale (GRSLSS)
and the Index of Learning Styles
questionnaire (ILS).
Research Participants
 A population size of 1100 students and 75
instructors were invited to participate in the study.
However, the sample size was smaller as only
29% of online instructors agreed to have their
students participate.
 The study was approved by the Tarleton State
University Institutional Review Board (IRB) for
use of human subjects.
Tarleton’s Course Platform: WebCT
 WebCT, the official course software of Tarleton State
University, is a web based set of course tools designed to
deliver online learning.
 WebCT integrates communication tools, including a
bulletin board, chat room, private e-mail, and calendar on
the WebCT site. In addition, graphics, video, and audio
files can be incorporated. These tools are available only to
the students and instructor of the course, thus protecting
the intellectual property of the instructor, the privacy of the
student, and the course content from external parties.
The Grasha-Riechmann Student
Learning Style Scale
 The GRSLSS is ideal for assessing student
learning preferences in a college-level distance
learning setting because it addresses the impact
of different social dynamics on the learning
preferences of the students
 It is a relevant scale to use in a distance setting
because it focuses on how students interact with
the instructor, other students, and with learning
in general (Cartnal and Diaz, 1999).
Grasha-Riechmann Student Learning
Style Scale Continued…
Independent
The learner prefers independent study, self-paced instruction and would prefer to
work alone on course projects than with other students.
Dependent
The learner looks to the teacher and to peers as a source of structure and guidance
and prefers an authority figure to tell them what to do.
Competitive
The learner learns in order to perform better than their peers and to receive
recognition for their academic accomplishments.
Collaborative
The learner learns by sharing and through cooperation with the teacher and peers. He
or she prefers lectures with small group discussions and group projects.
Avoidant
The learner is not enthused about attending class or learning class content. He or she
is typically uninterested and often overwhelmed by class activities.
Participant
The learner enjoys class and makes a good class citizen. He or she is interested in
class activities and discussions and is eager to do class work.
GRSLSS Continued…
GRSLSS Learning Style Scales
Low
Moderate
High
Independent
[1.0-2.7]
[2.8-3.8]
[3.9-5.0]
Avoidant
[1.0-1.8]
[1.9-3.1]
[3.2-5.0]
Collaborative
[1.0-2.7]
[2.8-3.4]
[3.5-5.0]
Dependent
[1.0-2.9]
[3.0-4.0]
[4.1-5.0]
Competitive
[1.0-1.7]
[1.8-2.8]
[2.9-5.0]
Participant
[1.0-3.0]
[3.1-4.1]
[4.2-5.0]
The Index of Learning Styles
Questionnaire
 The ILS is a 44-question instrument designed
to assess preferences on the following four
dimensions:
 sensing or intuitive;
 visual or verbal;
 active or reflective;
 sequential or global
The Index of Learning Styles Scale
Continued…
 sensing (concrete thinker, practical, oriented toward
facts and procedures) or intuitive (abstract thinker,
innovative, oriented toward theories and underlying
meanings);
 visual (prefer visual representations of presented
material, such as pictures, diagrams and flow charts)
or verbal (prefer written and spoken explanations);
 active (learn by trying things out, enjoy working in
groups) or reflective (learn by thinking things through,
prefer working alone or with a single familiar partner);
 sequential (linear thinking process, learn in small
incremental steps) or global (holistic thinking process,
learn in large leaps).
ILS Continued…
ILS Learning Style Scales
ACT
11a
9a
7a
5a
3a
1a
1b
<-- -->
3b
5b
7b
9b
11b
REF
SEN
11a
9a
7a
5a
3a
1a
1b
<-- -->
3b
5b
7b
9b
11b
VIS
11a
9a
7a
5a
3a
1a
1b
<-- -->
3b
5b
7b
9b
11b
SEQ
11a
9a
7a
5a
3a
1a
1b
<-- -->
3b
5b
7b
9b
11b
INT
VRB
GLO
Results-GRSLSS
 The analysis of data for the present study revealed that
online students at Tarleton State University are not
predominately independent learners (mean = 3.441,
moderate), as they were hypothesized to be. In fact, the
dependent learning style (mean = 3.772, moderate) was
more predominate than the independent. The most
commonly preferred learning style according to the
GRSLSS was the collaborative learning style (mean =
3.958, high). Conversely, just as other studies (i.e.
Cartnal & Diaz, 1999) have shown, the avoidant score
(mean = 2.432, moderate) and the competitive score (mean
= 2.516, moderate) were considerably less than the other
four learning styles (Figure 13).
Results Continued…
Mean of GRSLSS Learning Styles Represented Overall
3.958
4
3.673
3.441
3.772
3.5
2.516
2.432
3
2.5
Score
2
1.5
1
0.5
0
Independent
Score
Avoidant
Score
Collaborative
Score
Dependent
Score
GRSLSS Learning Style
Com petetive
Score
Participant
Score
Results-ILS
 Online students favored the acting, sensing, visual
and sequential side of the ILS continuum rather
than the reflecting, intuitive, verbal, and global
learning styles side.
Results Continued…
 The ILS scores in online classes at Tarleton State University show
a mean of -.26 on the ACT-REF score, -3.08 on the SEN-INT
score, -2.95 on the VIS-VRB score, and a -.41 on the SEQ-GLO
score. The outcomes of this analysis are shown below:
Mean of ILS Learning Styles Represented Overall
0
Score
-0.5
-1
-1.5
-0.26
-2
-2.5
-3
-0.41
-3.08
-2.95
-3.5
ACT-REF Score
SEN-INT Score
VIS-VRB Score
ILS Learning Style
SEQ-GLO Score
Discussion
 Distance learners are a heterogeneous group, and instructors
should design learning activities to capitalize on this diversity.
Thompson (1998) noted that since the dynamic nature of the
distance population precludes a typical student profile,
instructors should continually assess student learner
characteristics. The variety of GRSLSS and ILS learning style
scores in the present study demonstrates the diversity of learning
preferences and illustrates the dynamic nature of online student
learning characteristics.
 Armed with the data collected for this study, online instructors
at Tarleton State University can create learning activities and
strategies that will appeal to their students' wide variety of
learning styles.
10 Learning Style
Accommodation Strategies
for Online Instructors
Credence Baker
Tarleton State University
Strategy #1 – Online Community
 Interactivity: The Building Blocks of the Online
Community

Personal Interaction





Online Socialization - Introductions with
Responses
Post Homepages
Q & A Chat Session with Instructor
Group Students into smaller groups from Large
Classes
Infuse personality with tone, graphics and humor
Strategy #2 – Web Quest
 A WebQuest is a form of project-based and
problem-based learning in which the
resources (and often the tasks and
resources) are located on the Web and
accessed via links.
 Examples
http://edweb.sdsu.edu/webquest/taskonomy.html
Strategy #3 – Net Meetings
 Real time chat sessions
 Chat sessions with “experts”


Have students prepare questions prior to
meeting
Example: A Human Resource Management
Class could have a director of human
resources log-in to WebCT at a certain time
with the entire class to conduct a virtual
meeting with questions and answers.
Strategy #4 – Use Real World Scenarios
 Access to simulations of processes that cannot
feasibly be recreated gives students a chance to
‘situate’ learning that would otherwise remain
theoretical.
 At the same time there are opportunities to allow
students to engage in activities which in the real world
would be too expensive, dangerous, time-consuming
or unethical.
 As errors are ‘forgiven’, students can learn from their
mistakes.
Strategy #5 – Video Clips
 Insert links to video clips that are relevant to
the content (example: WebCT Clip)
 Record personalized video clips and embed
them into WebCT (example: instructor
introduction)
Strategy #6 – Round Table Discussion
 Use virtual “round table” with audio clips of
each persons point of view
 Example
Strategy #7 – Instructor/Expert Narration
 Use CITDE’s Recording Studio to have “voice
over” PowerPoint presentations or notes
slides
 Example
Strategy #8 – Break Text into Graphics
 Break up text and improve appearance and
readability with space, graphics, and contrast.
 Example
Strategy # 9 – Virtual Flashcards &
Crossword Puzzles
 Virtual Flashcards allow students to use
repetition to learn facts and concepts.
 Virtual Crossword Puzzles are a great way for
students to learn vocabulary.
 Example
Strategy # 10 – Multimedia in Place of
Paper Assignments
 Have students submit assignments in
multimedia form (powerpoint, webpages,
animations etc.) instead of paper form.
 Example: Virtual Resume
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Accommodating the learning styles of students in an online learning