Facilitating the learning process of kinesthetic learners in the online environment

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As higher education providers increasingly move to the online environment a growing body of research and theory focusing on the efficacy of education in this new environment is developing. This article reviews much of the current literature dealing with facilitating the education of kinesthetic learners online.

Is the online environment suited to kinesthetic learners?

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Many people consider the online environment best suited to learners with visual and reader-writer learning preferences. Spend a few moments thinking about the following questions before reading further:
  • Is this supported by the literature?
  • What about preferences for audio formats supported by online environments?
  • What are your preferences for learning?

In this subsection we'll begin to explore some of these questions.

More visual learners and reader-writers are attracted to the online environment when compared to aural and kinesthetic learners (Halsne, Gatta, 2002) (Drago, Wagner, 2004).

However once the students are enrolled, there are inconsistencies in the literature. Eom & Wen (2006) find that students with kinesthetic and aural learning preferences experience less satisfaction and perceive that they had worse outcomes in online courses relative to reader/writers and visual. Drago & Wagner (2004) however find that there are no significant differences between kinesthetic learners and the rest of the population for similar measures.

Meyer (2002) asserts that visual learners are more successful online than aural or kinesthetic learners, however Neuhauer (2002) finds no relationship between learning preferences and success.

What are we to make of these inconsistencies? Perhaps the differences are a result of course design. Bonk & Zhang (2006), describe a number of online learning experiences which appeal to kinesthetic learners, and a number which appeal to learners with other preferences. You would hope that a course which was designed to appeal to the preferences of kinesthetic learners would be both a more satisfying and a more successful learning experience for this learning group.

How do we make the online environment more inviting & supportive of kinesthetic learners?

Burd & Buchanan (2004) state that

Tactile/kinesthetic learners need to “do” in order to learn. They perform best in an active learning environment where they can be involved in the learning process.

Bonk & Zhang (2006) further state that kinesthetic learners need to

try-out, experience, imitate, and practice concepts and ideas in order to learn them more deeply.

Practical application is very important to the kinesthetic learner. To engage kinesthetic learners in the online environment it’s important to get the balance of theory to practice right. Educators should consider breaking theoretical lectures up into chunks interspersed with practical exercises that model the theory being applied to real world situations wherever possible.

It’s important to realise that the current online environment is predominantly text-based (O’Connor, 2007). Interactive technology such as gaming interfaces (e.g. http://secondlife.com/), drag and drop technology, interactive flash animations, simulations with 3D graphics, or virtual reality environments are likely to appeal to kinesthetic learners.

Kinesthetic Learners like to click the mouse, move things around. Flash Technology with lots of drag and drop, functions work well for kinesthetic learners - it’s how the physical translates to the online; movement isn’t just physical as we used to think: jumping and moving around the room. (Summers, 2007)

Electronic field trips" may not involve the physical body, yet students feel as if they are actually exploring the depths of the sea or the inside of a volcano as they accompany researchers in areas where very few can go. Recently, classrooms of students, linked electronically to explorers investigating the tectonic plates in the depths of the Mediterranean, were able to communicate with the scientists, ask questions, or request the viewing of areas or objects more closely. The students were almost there. (Dickinson, 1998)

The downside is the development time that may be involved in the creation of this type of educational resource.

Case-based learning provides students a way to experience the application of theory in a simulated real-world context. Kinesthetic learners are generally more interested in practical application than theory, making case-studies an obvious learning tool. Typically information relating to the case is presented to the students in the form of a document or presentation. The students will then either work individually or in groups to apply their theoretical learning to this real-world case. Some software packages such as PBL Interactive (http://www.pblinteractive.org/) make it relatively easy to place a case study within a computer simulation, significantly enhancing the realism and interactivity of the case.

In my experience, a sense of community is very important for kinesthetic learners. Discussion boards and other communication tools will be useful in creating the sense of community that kinesthetic learners typically need. Collaborative work such as the creation of a library of relevant web material through de.lish.ious or some other social bookmarking engine may also act to build community within your group of students.

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Based on your readings and experiences so far in this unit, construct a table comparing the advantages and disadvantages of interactive activities in online environments

Useful resources for Facilitators of Kinesthetic Learning online

Burd & Buchanan (2004) have created an excellent article which has very practical suggestions regarding the creation of online courses. In particular their guidelines on the use of discussion boards and developing experiential activities are of interest to facilitators of kinesthetic students.

Bonk and Zhang in their article “Introducing the R2D2 Model: Online learning for the diverse learners of this world” describe a model for online delivery which takes into consideration all learning styles within the VARK learning styles inventory.

Queens University, Centre for Teaching & Learning Resource for case based learning http://www.queensu.ca/ctl/goodpractice/case/index.html


McQuillan D (2007). Original document
Blackall L (2007). Contents box, Learning styles picture
McIntosh W (2007). Reflection/Activity boxes


Bonk C, Zhang K (2006). Introducing the R2D2 Model: Online learning for the diverse learners of this world. Distance Education. Vol 27, No 2, August 2006, pg 249-264

Burd B, Buchanan L (2004). Teaching the teachers: teaching and learning online. Pierian Press, Michigan, USA. A full text of this article is available at http://www.emeraldinsight.com/0090-7324.htm.

Dickinson D (1998). Technology That Enhances Kinesthetic Intelligence. Retrieved March 5, 2007 from http://www.america-tomorrow.com/ati/mi3.htm.

Drago W, Wagner R (2004). VARK preferred learning styles and online education. J Management Research News, 27(7), 1-13. Barmarick Publications

Eom S, Wen J (2006). The Determinants of Students’ Perceived Learning Outcomes and Satisfaction in University Online Education: An Empirical Investigation. Decision Sciences Journal of Innovative Education, 4(12).

Halsne A, Gatta L (2002). Online Versus Traditionally-delivered Instruction: A Descriptive Study of Learner Characteristics in a Community College Setting. Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, V(I), Retrieved February 25, 2007 from http://www.westga.edu/~distance/ojdla/spring51/halsne51.html.

Meyer K (2003). The Web’s Impact on Student Learning. The Journal. Retrieved from http://www.thejournal.com/articles/16350 on March 30, 2007.

O’Connor D (2007). Websites that appeal to the Visual, Auditory, Read/Write, & Kinesthetic Learning Styles. Retrieved March 2, 2007 from http://www.wiredinstructor.net/geo/course2.html .

Summers L (2007) Multiple Learning Styles in Web-based Courses. Retrieved March 3 2007 from http://www.webct.com/OTL/ViewContent?contentID=2334144 .

Swan, K. (2004). Learning online: current research on issues of interface, teaching presence and learner characteristics. J. Bourne & J. C. Moore (Eds) Elements of Quality Online Education, Into the Mainstream. Retrieved March 25, 2007 from http://www.kent.edu/rcet/Publications/upload/LE03.pdf.