Equitable consideration of learning styles is needed for remote-learning success

Flexibility will determine whether or not students are left behind this semester

ILLUSTRATION: Kitty Cheung / The Peak

By: Devana Petrovic, Staff Writer

There are many barriers that students may face with remote learning, including accessibility and access to technology. However, it is important to address how another semester of online instruction will also put students with different learning styles at a disadvantage if they remain unsupported. While some students might find this situation advantageous, others may find remote learning poses some significant conflicts with their preferred learning style. These conflicts, if overlooked, may create learning difficulties for students who would otherwise be able to adapt their learning preferences in a classroom environment.

There are a few learning styles in particular that may suffer from the mass migration to online learning. These include interpersonal (social) learners, kinesthetic (physical) learners, and linguistic (verbal) learners. For example, students who learn best when collaborating with others may feel a decrease in attention and motivation when forced to work entirely alone or through video chat formats.The lack of tutorial discussions, study groups, or a professor’s in-person office hours may also negatively affect an interpersonal learner’s performance over time. 

On the other hand, the nature of online learning is likely to advantage solitary or intrapersonal learners, who prefer self-study and are individually motivated outside of large groups. As a linguistic learner who learns primarily through speech, the shift to online learning has been difficult for me as well. I need to be able to hear my professor in lecture in order to fully comprehend the material, and Canvas discussion boards just don’t cut it. 

In an in-person environment, professors can more easily adjust for these small quirks in learning style through variety in tasks and assignments. However remote learning drastically reduces the number of resources faculty have at their disposal to make sure all students have a fair chance at proving their competence. The question then becomes: are professors prepared to take on the extra work of making sure all of their students are getting the full benefit out of their new, remote classes? 

Although accommodating all learning styles in an online format is unrealistic, there are still some ways in which professors can be mindful of students who may be disadvantaged. Class livestreams can allow professors to check in with students on the pace and efficacy of their lectures. Increased utilization of multimedia can also be very beneficial to students of various learning styles. Luckily for us, SFU students have access to a host of resources through our libraries.

It is, however, essential that student voices are included. This can be achieved by providing students with regular opportunities to give feedback, and then actively applying suggestions wherever necessary. Flexibility is going to be key to making sure no student is forced to accept substandard outcomes when they might otherwise have done better.

It is important that SFU continues to prioritize quality of education and their students’ ability to get the most out of their time in university, no matter the circumstances. Without considering the various learning styles that may be limited in the online format, the university is not doing its due diligence to provide their students with equal opportunities for success.