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Making your course work for your learning style

Created on Wed, 20/08/2014 - 16:05 by Polly Foster 

As a self-confessed MOOC addict, I’m always looking for ways to develop my learning and get the most out of online education.



Recently I heard about the concept of ‘learning styles’ – the idea that different people prefer to learn in different ways – and this got me thinking about how students can make the most of their MOOCs by learning in a way that fits with their personal learning style.

This is just one of the ideas I picked from Open2Study’s Becoming a Confident Trainer  – the latest addition to my collection of completed MOOCs. Sometimes you need to take a course to learn how to take courses better!

Becoming a Confident Trainer is an excellent MOOC even if you have no intention of working on ‘the other side of the desk’ as a teacher instead of a learner. This is because so much of the content is focused around how students learn and how to optimise the learning process, and as a learner yourself, this information is invaluable.

One of the most interesting ideas discussed in this course was that learning is enhanced if the student uses a method that works with their preferred learning style. The three main styles are:

  • Visual learners, who prefer to access information through images and pictures.
  • Auditory learners, who learn best when listening to information and talking about it themselves.
  • Kinaesthetic learners, who like getting hands-on and learn best when they can engage practically with the topics they are studying.

You might recognise yourself as having some of the characteristics described above! This got me thinking – how can learners on online courses adapt their learning to best suit their preferred learning style? I came up with a few ideas that you might like to try out yourself.


If you are a visual learner, Open2Study probably appeals to you because so much of the courses are delivered through video and enhanced by the amazing diagrams and artwork drawn on the transparent screen.

When it comes to revising and memorising what you have seen in the videos, you could try continuing the visual theme and drawing diagrams and pictures for yourself to remind you of key concepts. Using different colours and be as creative as you like – whatever helps you learn!

You could even put your educational works of art up around your house in key areas so you associate the sight of them with objects around your home. So when you want to remember that key fact you keep forgetting, you can use your visual learning preferences to picture where the diagram is positioned in the room. And who knows, the other members of your household might learn something too!

Auditory learnings like to listen to things

Image via Flickr


You might be an auditory learner if you always find yourself listening to the Open2Study courses without paying much attention to what’s on the screen. This doesn’t mean that you get distracted easily, it just means you’re a good listener and tend to remember things better when you hear them compared with when you see them.

When it comes to reviewing what you’ve covered in your course, you will probably find you remember more if you talk about the course content with other people – hearing the information again as you speak will help to cement the facts in your brain, and the best way to test if you understand something is to try and explain it to someone else.  

If you’re feeling creative, you could try making up little rhymes about the things you are trying to remember, like ‘In fourteen hundred and ninety-two Columbus sailed the ocean blue’. If you recite these to yourself a few times they will soon stick, and then you’ll have trouble getting them out of your head!


Kinaesthetic learners are always keen to get practical and try out what they have learned – movement is the key to their learning. If you’re constantly itching to try things out for yourself, and you wish it was you completing the tasks in the videos instead of the instructors, then you might find that movement helps you to recall the course content better.

You could come up with hand gestures or other movements that relate to certain key ideas in your course. For example you might mime out the movement of planets around the sun in order to recall the information you learned in an astronomy course.

It could also be useful to try and relate the things you are learning online to activities you do in your day to day life. For instance, if you are learning about the water cycle in a geography course, you could go through the key points while you are going through the movements of brushing your teeth - continuing the water theme but adding movement as well.

Mix it together

It’s worth mentioning that most people have a combination of learning styles, so you might want to try out a variety of techniques to see what learns best for you. Don’t feel limited by the visual, auditory and kinaesthetic headings – try a bit of everything!

Which sort of learning style do you have? Will you try any of these techniques to get more out of your course? Leave a comment below to let me know how you get on, good luck!

Polly Foster is a guest blogger with Open2Study


This post comes to you from our guest blogger, Polly Foster.

A recent graduate, Polly is currently working at the University of Bath helping students develop entrepreneurial skills. Studying digital marketing part-time and with a passion for education, careers and all things creative, she would love to make a living as a freelance writer.

Would you like to blog for us? Get in touch using the Feedback tab at the bottom right of this website, with your ideas for a blog post (or two) and some links to samples of your writing.


When needing to understand what is being said on the TV news, especially very important news I look away as watching the newsreader I hear, but do not take it in as well. If a teacher is speaking online or in class, I find I need to do the same, making a few notes as the teacher speaks. Once I have written anything down it tends to stay in my memory. As a youngster I had to learn a piece of music, every note by heart, I could not read and play as others seemed to. The same with History. However, with Geography with hands on projects and maps I did well also English as it was a written subject. I had trouble reading sheet music unless it was from my Mother's repertoire as the notes seemed familiar and no matter how difficult the piece I could play it. Once learnt never forgotten. I found any new job I took in my career the first 6 weeks were incredibly difficult until I learnt their office systems, I felt I would never get to grips and under pressure. Always a slow learner much to my own disgust and frustration. I seem to be a mixed learner. Would love any feedback!

Good ideas. But if it's Christopher Columbus you're referring to in your little rhyme, better change it to "Fourteen hundred and ninety-two" or you'll risk a lot of comments that say the same as this one... ;)

Oh, dear! That would have been a very long trip for poor old Christopher. Thanks for spotting the typo - we've sorted it out now.

Good morning, I want to discernible lessons in football training and get certified football coach you please help or guidance, thanks

Hi riad,
You could start with Sports and Recreation Management from us, then do some investigation into how you can get qualified in your area.
There's plenty of business and management qualifications available from our parent company, Open Universities Australia and our sister company, Open Training Institute.
Hope that helps,

Oh dear. Please not this harmful nonsense again.

Google "learning styles reiner willingham" and click on the top two links (I'd post them here but apparently we're not allowed to put links in comments).

From the article titled The Myth of Learning Styles (Reiner & Willngham, 2010):

"So here is the punch line: Students differ in their abilities, interests, and background knowledge, but not in their learning styles.

Students may have preferences about how to learn, but no evidence suggests that catering to those preferences will lead to better learning.

As college educators, we should apply this to the classroom by continuing to present information in the most appropriate manner for our content and for the level of prior knowledge, ability, and interests of that particular set of students."

Hi Nadia,
We love sharing writing from our students. Generally, it is based on their opinions and research. If you're interested in submitting a piece about your understanding of how people learn (or how students might do things to make learning more enjoyable) we'd love to share it.
Please feel free to send me a direct message with your contact details and we can go from there.


This is my first time in part taking in an online course. I'm so much looking up to it and to be the best student in my class. I'm really into this. Much thanks to Open university for this opportunity. So damn grateful.

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