Online learners and their learning strategies


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Online learners and their learning strategies

  1. 1. Online Learners and their Learning StrategiesDr Tammy Dewar, Calliope Learning, Calgary, CanadaDr Dave Whittington, University of Glasgow, ScotlandJournal of Educational Computing Research, Vol. 23, No. 4, pp. 415-433. 2000Correspondence addressTammy 1
  2. 2. Online Learners and their Learning StrategiesTammy Dewar and Dave WhittingtonAbstractThe authors have used the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI®), a personality assessment tool,to look at online learning styles. MBTI is briefly explained and some work on how MBTI hasbeen applied to online behavior in general is outlined. The paper describes and discusses anexperiment that looked at how adult learners make use of their MBTI type to cope with thechallenges of learning in an online environment. Results of the experiment are presented andsome tentative conclusions are drawn. The authors go on to provide notes related to the fourpsychological dimensions of the MBTI that might be useful to course designers, coursefacilitators and students. The paper concludes with a brief discussion of where further work mightprove useful.Introduction If we do not devote equal energy - yes, and equal money - to the release of the potential of the individual person then the enormous discrepancy between our level of physical energy resources and human energy resources will doom us to a deserved and universal destruction. Carl Rogers 1993 [1]Rogers goes on “...unless we give strong positive attention to the human interpersonal side of oureducational dilemma, our civilisation is on its way down the drain.”Rogers may be overstating his case, it is unlikely that civilisation will meet “universaldestruction” if the “the human interpersonal side” of education is not given due attention.However, the authors believe that time should be taken to carefully examine the interpersonalside of online learning and attention should be given to the construction and delivery of onlinecourses.This paper reports on an investigation into how different people learn online. It suggests thatsimply looking at learning styles is insufficient if we are to understand the complex interpersonalrelationships that develop in facilitated online learning. The authors use the Myers-Briggs TypeIndicator (MBTI) to help understand how different personalities interact in online learningsituations.BackgroundBillings [2] has suggested that the sociological aspects of learning style have greatest importanceon distance education course completion. It might be natural to extend this to say that we need tothink much more holistically if we are to understand how different people learn online.Rogers [1] very eloquently makes the case for the necessity of close interpersonal relationshipswithin education. He argues that only within trusting, real and empathetic relationships can trueeducation take place. If we are to develop relationships such as these, especially in an onlinecontext, then some understanding of how relationships between different people are formed isvital. Tools such as the MBTI help us to think about these issues, to discover ourselves and tohelp discover others.The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is an inventory used to determine personalitydispositions and preferences based on Carl Jung’s theory of psychological types. Carl Jung 2
  3. 3. postulated that apparently random behaviour on an individual’s part is really not random at all buthas a pattern to it. This pattern will reflect the person’s preferences for taking in information andmaking decisions. It will also reflect the world in which a person feels most comfortable - theouter world of action or the inner world of ideas. Jung suggests that this behaviour is inborn,much like being born right or left-handed.Based on Carl Jung’s’ work, Katharine Briggs and her daughter Isabel Myers devoted a lifetimeto making his theory accessible and relevant to the average person. They developed the MBTI®,a self- report inventory with four psychological dimensions, eight preferences and 16 types [3].The four psychological dimensions are energizing, attending, deciding and living. The eightpreferences are extravert (E)-introvert (I) (energizing dimension), sensing (S)-intuition (N)(attending), thinking (T)-feeling (F) (deciding) and judging (J)-perceiving (P) (living). (Note:Myers and Briggs maintained Jung’s original spelling of extravert with an A.)An individual’s four letter type is determined by which end of each dimension they tend towards.An individual’s type does not indicate strength of preference, but rather which combination ofpreferences they would ordinarily use in various situations. The 16 types are based on the 16possible combinations of preferences. For example, both authors’ type is ENFP. Moreexplanation of each of the eight preferences follows.The Extravert-Introvert dimension refers to where people get their energy. Extraverts are focusedon the outer world of people, things and action while introverts are focused on the inner world ofideas and feelings. Because of this, extraverts tend to express emotions freely, are energized byinteracting with people and seek out feedback from others. They have a tendency to act first andthen reflect. Introverts, on the other hand, store up their emotions (choosing when and with whomthey will show emotions), are sometimes exhausted by interacting with large groups of people,and will think things through first before acting [3].The Sensing-Intuition dimension refers to how we gather information. Sensing types gatherinformation through their five senses and by focusing on the here and now details andpracticalities. Intuitive types gather information by their sixth sense, by focusing on the bigpicture and searching for connections, patterns, relationships and meanings. Sensing types likethings that are definite, measurable, and practical while intuitives like opportunities for dreamingand being inventive. Sensing types live in the present while intuitives live toward the futureanticipating what could or might be. Sensing types rarely make errors about factual things anddetails; intuitives frequently miss the details while searching for the grand design behindsomething [3].The Thinking-Feeling dimension refers to how we make decisions. Feeling types base theirdecisions on subjective personal values while thinking types base their decisions on logic, factsand objectivity. Thinking types see things as an on-looker from outside a situation and areconcerned with ideas and principles. Feeling types, on the other hand, see things as a participant,from within a situation and are concerned with harmony and relationships. Thinkers tend toquestion the conclusions of other people, while feelers agree with those around them, thinkingthem to be right [3].The Judging-Perceiving dimension looks at our drive for closure and organization. Perceivers likeopen-ended, free-flowing, almost structureless environments, while judgers like things definite,settled and organized. Judgers like to have life under control while perceivers prefer toexperience life as it happens. Judgers expect an organized routine and will push for decisions tobe made and then carry them out. Perceivers, on the other hand, usually need to gather moreinformation and will postpone decisions. Judgers are self-regimented, purposeful and exactingwhile perceivers are flexible, adaptable and tolerant [3]. 3
  4. 4. The MBTI has become a widely used tool in both education and business to explore leadershipstyles [4], teaching/learning styles [5-7], communication styles [8], and vocational choice [8].The MBTI and Online LearningMuch has been written about learning styles and the MBTI [5-7, 9], but little has been writtenspecifically about MBTI learning styles in the online environment. Reviewing the literature onthe MBTI and Internet behavior does provide a starting point.Of the few articles about type and online behavior, most of them tend to suggest that introvertsare over represented (over represented meaning as compared to the statistics overall of type in theNorth American population) generally in terms of Internet use. They also enjoy the onlineenvironment because it creates the space and privacy they don’t usually find in our regular face toface (f2f) environment [10-13]. Livingood notes The future looks superficially grim for society’s introverts. With the continuous enhancement of pagers, teleconferencing, cellular phones, and the development of personal communicators, a growing verbal inferno threatens to engulf the world’s quieter individuals. Yet, silent as they may be, introverts can have a lot to say given the right forum. They’ve found that the Internet can help them communicate in their preferred manner; a written dialogue with time to pause for thought and analysis.Palloff and Pratt [13] suggest there’s a difference in how extraverts and introverts enter into avirtual community. They suggest that “It is more comfortable for an introvert to spend timethinking about information before responding to it. It is more difficult—but not impossible—forextroverts [sic] to interact this way, perhaps because they have less need to.” [13, p. 22] Further,Pratt (as quoted in Palloff and Pratt) notes that “Consequently, the introvert may have lessdifficulty entering the virtual community, whereas the extrovert [sic], with a need to establish asense of social presence, may have more trouble doing so. [13, p. 22] The authors note that it isnot clear that Palloff and Pratt are using the terms extravert/introvert consistent with MBTItheory, as evidenced by their spelling of extraversion with an “o”.A notable exception to these observations about introversion is Owen and Liles [12], whoseresearch about the relationship of psychological type and the adoption and use of the Internet,found that field faculty who are extraverts are more likely to use the Internet. They suggest thereason is that the Internet facilitates the extravert’s inclination to be connected with large numbersof individuals and accommodates their need for group work, cooperative projects and discussion.They suggest that introverts prefer to work individually or with small groups, thereby reducingtheir use of group communications technologies (as opposed to email communication).Intuitives are also over represented [10, 12], with a possible explanation that the holistic andhypertext environment is more suited to intuitives as opposed to sensing types, who seek a linearor step by step environment.Thinkers are also over represented [10], although little explanation is provided for this.Only Ellis Harsham [10] has commented at all on the judging/perceiving preference. He notesthat, “Because there’s a good deal of playing around on the Internet, I thought there might be aneven greater overrepresentation of Perceivers—but I also expect that many Perceivers never gotaround to sending their e-mail response to Jon.” [10, p. 22] 4
  5. 5. One article by Frederick Bail, written in 1995 [14], looked specifically at type and computer-mediated communications. He analyzed the personal email communications and groupcommunications of 55 undergraduate students over three semesters. His main results:• students expressing a clear preference for extraversion sent more messages to peers than those showing a clear preference for introversion• students with either a clear preference for extraversion or for intuition tended to write more replies to peers’ conference notes than students with either a clear preference for introversion or for sensing, respectively• those with a clear intuition preference also tended to write more nonrequired replies to peers’ conference notes and wrote longer notes themselves [14, p. 224]An earlier exploratory study analyzing the content of personal email sent to him by students(1992) suggested that:• majority of those containing significant self disclosure were written by students who expressed a preference for introversion• three-quarters of the messages requesting clarification of requirements were written by those who expressed a preference for judging [14, p. 221]While Bail’s results are interesting, they do not address the challenges and complexities oflearning online, from the learners’ perspective. An initial study was designed to get at theseconcepts.Experimental EvidenceThis study was conducted with a group of learners who are graduate students at Royal RoadsUniversity in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada to address the question “How do individuals useMBTI® learning style concepts to help them in the online environment?” (see for complete details.) One of the authors, a qualifiedMBTI facilitator, had provided introductory MBTI workshops to five cohorts of over 55 peopleeach over the last three years. Their program was structured around two summer residences andonline courses delivered in the fall and winter semesters. All potential participants, therefore, hadboth an understanding of MBTI concepts and experience with online learning.An email was sent out inviting people to participate in a virtual discussion over a three weekperiod. Twenty-six completed a consent form indicating their interest. Of those 26, 21 signed onto the conferencing system, one of whom did not participate beyond testing it. One of the 21active participants is also one of the co-researchers. The other co-researcher acted as a facilitator.Participants were presented with a discussion paper outlining possible applications of theirawareness of their own MBTI type to the online environment (see and a list of learning style characteristics pertinent toeach of the eight preferences based on Lawrence’s work [5]. These are highlighted in the tablesbelow: Table 1 – Extravert/Introvert Learning Characteristics Extravert (E) Introvert (I)• chooses to work with others, with large groups • chooses to work alone or with one person• plunges into new experiences • holds back from new experiences• is relaxed and confident • chooses written assignments over oral presentations• readily talks over events and ideas with others • performs better in written work than in oral presentations• is interested in other people and their doings • pauses before answering, and shows discomfort with• readily offers opinions spontaneous questioning• shares personal experiences • asks questions to allow understanding something before 5
  6. 6. • wants to experience things so as to understand them attempting to do it• is enthusiastic about activities involving action • is hard to understand, quiet and shy; seems deep• asks questions to check on the expectations of the group or • is intense, bottling up emotions teacher • prefers setting his/her own standards when possible• has a relatively short attention span • spends time in thought, before and after actions• dislikes complicated procedures and gets impatient with • has a small number of carefully selected friends slow jobs • likes quiet space to work• is interested in the results of the job, in getting it done, and • works intently on the task at hand in how other people do it • works on one thing for a long time• eagerly attends to interruptions • prefers jobs that can be done “inside the head”• acts quickly, sometimes without thinking • dislikes interruptions• likes to work by trial and error • may spend too much time in thought and neglect to get into• communicates well and greets people easily action Table 2 – Sensing/Intuition Learning Characteristics Sensing Intuition• is realistic and practical • seems to like something new all the time• is more observant than imaginative • is more imaginative than observant• wants to have senses fully engaged and satisfied • attends more to the whole concept than to details• enjoys owning things and making them work • is aware only of events that relate to current interests• prefers memorizing to finding reasons • becomes restless, impatient with routines• is aware of environment and changes moods as physical • is an initiator, promoter, inventor of ideas surroundings change • sees possibilities that others miss• learns best from an orderly sequence of details • is quick with finding solutions• interested in facts and what is really true • doesn’t always hear you out; anticipates your words• keeps accurate track of details, makes lists • likes to have and do things differently from others• is patient • likes problems that require new ways of being solved• is good at checking, inspecting, and precise work • dislikes precise work with many details• likes to know the “right way” to solve problems • enjoys learning a new skill more than using it• likes an established routine • works in bursts of energy, with slack periods in between• enjoys using skills already learned more than learning new • jumps to conclusions; makes factual errors ones • finds reading easy• works steadily, not in fits and starts • readily grasps meanings of words and symbols• is impatient or frustrated with complicated situations• seldom uses imagination or has inspirations Table 3 – Thinking/Feeling Learning Characteristics Thinking (T) Feeling (F)• wants logical reasons before acccepting new ideas • is personal, likes warm personal relationships• tries to be fair; is impersonal, impartial • is more interested in people than things or ideas• finds ideas and things more interesting than people • is more tactful than truthful, if forced to choose• is more truthful than tactful, if forced to choose • is likely to agree with others in the group• is brief and businesslike • thinks as others think, believing them probably right• takes very seriously facts, theories, and the discovery of • finds it difficult to be brief and businesslike truth • takes emotional relationships and ideals very seriously• takes seriously the solution of objective problems • is offended by a lack of personal consideration in other• treats emotional relationships and ideals quite casually • is motivated by others• contributes intellectual criticism • may comply or conform to avoid disharmony• exposes wrongs in the habits and beliefs of others • permits feelings to override logic• is offended by illogic in others • forecasts how others will feel• holds firmly to a policy or conviction • arouses enthusiasm• hurts other people’s feelings without knowing it • is upset by conflicts; values harmony• has a low need for harmony • dislikes telling people unpleasant things• is upset by injustice • relates well to most people• seems not to know how his or her own actions affect other • is sympathetic people’s feeling Table 4 – Judging/Perceiving Learning Characteristics Judging (J) Perceiving (P)• likes to have things decided and settled • is more curious than decisive• is more decisive than curious • lives according to the situation of the moment• lives according to plans • may not plan things, acts spontaneously• lives according to standards and customs not easily or • is comfortable in handling the unplanned, unexpected, or lightly set aside incidental 6
  7. 7. • tries to make situations conform to his or her own • looks for new experiences, expects to be interested standards, “the way they ought to be” • samples many more experiences than can be digested or• makes definite choices from among the possibilities used• is uneasy with unplanned happenings • takes a “live and let live” attitude• bases friendship upon beliefs, standards and tastes which • bases friendships on propinquity and shared experience are assumed to be shared • takes on friendships easily; may also neglect, drop, and• has enduring friendships resume them easily• sets up “shoulds” and “oughts” and regularly judges self • aims to miss nothing against these • is flexible, adaptable and tolerant• aims to be right • wants to understand things more than manage them• is self-regimented, purposeful and exacting • leaves things open• is orderly, organized and systematic • has trouble making decisions• likes assignments to be clear and definite • starts too many projects and has difficulty in finishing them• has settled opinions • postpones unpleasant jobs• may be tolerant of routine procedures • welcomes new light on a thing, situation or personParticipants were then invited to respond to the following questions:1. As a(n) {fill in one of the eight preferences) learner, I appreciate a learning environment that ....2. The online learning environment helps or hinders my [fill in one of the eight preferences] learning needs in that ...3. The strategies I developed to address these learning needs are ...4. What I think I need to develop to better work with the online environment is ...Results – Participant ExperiencesAlthough Lawrence’s observations about the MBTI and learning styles were specific to f2fenvironments, research participants validated the learning characteristics as applicable to theirexperience in the online environment, with a notable exception of the thinking and feelingpreference, which is explained in more detail below. Comments such as the following were quitetypical: Lawrence’s list suits me pretty much to a “T”. (ENFJ) Yes, the above list applies to me .. what else can I say? (ESFJ) I was certainly able to see myself in the profile provided - describes me to a T! (INTJ) Oh my goodness. That Lawrence person with all the lists has got me pegged! (ENFP)Participants also commented on how some adaptations were made for the online environment andwhat strategies they developed. The following tables and discussion highlight how the onlineenvironment facilitates and hinders each preference, and the strategies participants havedeveloped to help them online.Extraversion/IntroversionThe following two tables highlight the differences between extraverts and introverts (in thatorder) in the online environment. It is interesting to note that while writers have suggested thatintroverts are more at home in the online environment, that extraverts have found it appealing fordifferent reasons, although both introverts and extraverts identify challenges that need to beaddressed. 7
  8. 8. Table 5 – Extravert preferences onlineFacilitates Preference Hinders Preference Strategies Developed• Flexibility and pacing • Miss nonverbals and body language of • Recall faces and voices accommodates short attention span f2f • Spend more time reflecting• Ability to “skip” messages if tired • Online can “suck energy” at times before posting or bored • Hates missing anything so finds online • Develop thinking and writing• No need to worry about too time consuming in terms of reading skills monopolizing air time every message • Read instructions before leaping• Provides opportunity for increased • Waiting for feedback from others when into something interaction and connection with posting to an asynchronous discussion distance learners* • Use real time online chats to energize• Time to re-read, reflect before contributing ** • Need to take time to “meet” people virtually and discover interests if they haven’t met someone f2f previously • Form f2f groups where courses were non interactive*NOTE: Refers specifically to learner/learner interactions; it was noted that instructor/learnerinteraction was not as energizing. It was compared to a faster version of correspondence, whichhad a negative connotation.**NOTE: This is an out of preference observation. This trait is characteristic of introverts inMBTI theory. Table 6 – Introvert preferences onlineFacilitates Preference Hinders Preference Strategies Developed• Flexibility and pacing • Sometimes miss nonverbals and body • Be clear about expectations and accommodates need for time to language of f2f parameters reflect/refine ideas • Waiting for feedback from others when • Create draft copies before• Not put “on the spot” to respond posting to an asynchronous discussion posting a message quickly • Easy to withdraw from discussions • Reply to one person to help to• No need to fight for “air time” as develop ease with larger group with f2f • Often “over reflect” and not get into action • Limit number of times to edit• More comfortable sometimes than work f2f which facilitates speaking out • Humour not understood more • Challenging to develop trust *• Capitalizes on ease with written work• Can enjoy contributions of others without pressure to respond*NOTE: There was an interesting discussion among two participants about trust and risk as itrelates to online learning. This was not mentioned in the extravert discussion.Sensing/IntuitionThere were only three sensing types in the study, one of whom did not participate beyond testingthe system. One sensor validated the Lawrence list as accurate, suggesting “Yes the above listapplies to me … what else can I say?” The other sensor observed that her sensing and intuitive 8
  9. 9. scores were quite close, and, therefore, she only related to half of the characteristics. None ofthem commented specifically on how the online environment related to a sensing preference. It isinteresting to note, however, that three intuitives commented on sensing, suggesting they haddeveloped some sensing traits to help them in the online environment.The following table highlights the observations made by intuitives. What is of particular note isthat a number of the strategies intuitives identified had to do with developing their oppositepreference, sensing. Table 7 – Intuition preferences onlineFacilitates Preference Hinders Preference Strategies Developed• Allows for the play with • Keeping interested in courses that are • Jot down notes on details and words/symbols and creative more detail oriented organize thoughts before posting element in exploration so others can follow train of • Easy to skip over messages that appear thought• Internet learning is a new and dull exciting thing in and of itself • Post shorter messages and more • Can easily ignore events not interested in often• Able to create new adventures/possibilities and use • Some parts of online work are detailed • Complete “detail” or mundane one’s imagination • Challenging to communicate mental assignments by creating leaps to others challenges and moving outside• Reading other people’s work of comfort zone– eg. Submitting sparked interest and creativity assignment as a web page• Asynchronous nature facilitates • Attend to details of assignment working in bursts of energy, with instead of jumping to slack periods in between which conclusions about it addresses dislike of routine • Attend to messages that appear• Ability to bounce around in “dull” conversations and not follow sequences • Find systematic ways of tracking conversations • Develop routine to deal with assignment deadlines • Develop patienceThinking/FeelingOf the four dimensions of the MBTI, the thinking/feeling preference is the only one that shows amarked sex difference, because feeling characteristics have stereotypically been assigned towomen, while thinking characteristics to men. Briggs, Myers and Myers [3] note, “Thegeneralization tends to pass over the women with thinking and the men with feeling, partlybecause types that do not fit the stereotypes have often learned the art of protective coloration.”[3, p. 66] This notion probably accounts for the difficulty in arriving at conclusions about onlinework in this dimension. A number of the research participants debated the accuracy ofLawrence’s characteristics, and there were a number of feelers posting in the thinking area, andthinkers posting in the feeling area.Two additional factors appear to be at play. One is that the research participants are enrolled in aleadership program, which emphasizes the value of developing collaborative relationships, afeeling characteristic according to Lawrence. Also, given the number of extraverted feeling typesand introverted thinking types, a number of observations in the feeling area were related toextraversion, and those in the thinking area related to introversion. 9
  10. 10. There are only a couple of observations, therefore, that could be teased out with any certaintyabout this dimension. Feelers did tend to agree that they found online communication cold andimpersonal and, given a choice, would choose f2f over online. The thinkers did not mention this.A notable exception is one feeler who found online communication to have more depth, morefeeling, and more honesty than f2f. The feelers highlighted similar strategies to the extravert listabove to deal with this. They also noted that as they started interacting with people online andgot to know them, they could make meaningful connections.The main theme in the thinking preference related to the excitement and love of debating ideas,with the corresponding caution of how this may be received by others. While several thinkersnoted they did value harmony in relationships and paid attention to people’s feelings, severalothers suggested they needed to learn how to temper their directedness and interest in ideasonline, so as not to be misinterpreted.Judging/PerceivingThe following two tables highlight the differences between judging and perceiving (in that order)in the online environment. Both types indicate an appreciation for how the online environmentmeets their learning needs in this dimension. The perceivers, however, appear to have a love/haterelationship with it. While it does facilitate their need for open-ended exploration, they struggleto keep themselves focused and within overall course structures and deadlines. As with theintuition preference, their strategies are very closely related to developing their oppositepreference, judging. Table 8 – Judging preferences onlineFacilitates Preference Hinders Preference Strategies Developed• Can organize and complete tasks on • Have to work overtime at the beginning • Have learned to skim postings their schedule as opposed to to figure out expectations another’s; very few occurrences that will throw off the plan • Sometimes attending to too many messages throws off the schedule• Feel in control of the learning environment and not at the mercy of other learners who may have a different pace Table 9 – Perceiving preferences onlineFacilitates Preference Hinders Preference Strategies Developed• Lots of room for new experiences, • Flexibility and openness can lead to • Develop time and task exploration and play procrastination of unpleasant tasks management and/or feeling overwhelmed• Open ended nature of Internet • Complete unpleasant tasks first appeals to curiosity and spontaneity • Too much structure or too little structure in course design • Start work early, so have time to• Some structure forces on task change direction if needed behavior • Send off assignments as soon as• Pubs and chat areas facilitate need completed to avoid endless for play while working revisions • Set limits on interests • Develop focus and self- discipline 10
  11. 11. Results – Participation PatternsReviewing the overall participation of the various types revealed some interesting type behaviorpatterns. The following table highlights the distribution of participants and their postings amongthe 16 types. Table 10 - Participation by Type ISTJ ISFJ INFJ INTJ N=0 N=0 N=1 N=2 I=2 I=1 W=8 W=4.5 C=2 C=4.5 ISTP ISFP INFP INTP N=0 N=0 N=2 N=3 I=6 I=1 W= 4.5 W=5.3 C=1 C=2 ESTP ESFP ENFP ENTP N=0 N=0 N=4 N=0 I=7.5 W=6.25 C=3.25 ESTJ ESFJ ENFJ ENTJ N=1 N=2 N=2 N=4 I=0 I=0 I=2 I=0.25 W=0 W=4.5 W=5.5 W=3 C=0 C=1 C=2.5 C=0Key to Table OneN - Number of participants of given typeI - Average number of postings in Introductory and Pub areas (does not include compulsory selfintroduction)W - Average number of postings in main work area of the conferenceC - Average number of postings in closing area of the conferenceDespite the small number of participants and the lack of spread of types, it is evident that thefeeling types are showing a clear preference for the more informal areas of the conference wheretheir postings reveal them developing relationships with other research participants. The thinkingtypes, on the other hand, posted little in the informal areas, and confined their comments to theideas of the research when they did post. This is in keeping with the MBTI theory whichsuggests that the thinking types attend more to ideas and concepts while feeling types areconcerned with creating relationships [3, p. 68]. (As noted earlier, however, there was muchdebate among participants about the validity of this observation.) Comments from participantsthat suggest this are: Glad to see that so many people are visiting the pub. I should have bought shares in this place when I had the chance. (INFP) Warmth in relationships is important to me and I find the online environment quite cold. (INFJ) I forget that people are an important part of the theory that needs to be explored. (ENTJ) 11
  12. 12. What I think I need to develop to better work with the online environment is to temper my somewhat less frequent brutal style with respect and consideration for the ideas of others. (ENTJ)Designers and facilitators of online courses need to be aware of, and have respect for, the diverseneeds of their learners. In particular, informal chat areas in online courses are vital to the overallpositive learning environment for feeling types. Making participation in these informal areascompulsory, however, might disadvantage the thinking types.Commentators have noticed that whereas introverts have been disadvantaged in face to faceclassrooms, the online classroom levels the playing field. As Livingood [11] notes, “[introverts]are connected, they are communicating, and they are comfortable in the new world ofcyberspace.” Our quantitative evidence reveals that introverts and extraverts participatesomewhat equally in this medium, although they do experience it differently, as identifiedpreviously and as evidenced in the following quotes: I appreciate the online learning situation’s flexibility and space. I have time to read, re- read, write, edit, and refine contributions in order to be as clear as I can be. Just the process of doing this provides a certain amount of satisfaction. (INFJ) The online learning environment helps my introverted learning needs in that it is flexible with time for answering or responding to questions or statements. I don’t feel I have to fight or wait for my turn to “speak”. (INTP) One of the few drawbacks for me is I miss the toe to toe, knee to knee, face to face contact with others. What I have done to overcome this a bit is with folks I know I simply recall their voice or face and that in a way brings their written message to life for me. (ENFJ) When I have found myself needing more “E” contact, that’s when I slip into ICQ... like right now... I’ll be back.. ooops, here I am, a wee “E” -charge and I am all set for a while. (ENTJ) (Note: ICQ is a synchronous communication tool.)This points to the importance of including real time tools in an online classroom for theextraverts. As noted above, however, the key is to provide the option as opposed to mandating itsuse.It also seems that there is a slight preference for extraverts to enter more into the informal areaswhile the introverts entered more into the assigned tasks as long as the sensing/intuitiondimension is controlled for. Since there were no introverted sensing types, this seems reasonableto do. However, if one doesn’t control for that, then the introverts entered into the whole thingconsiderably more than the extraverts, with a very slight exception in the first category(pub/intro) where they are almost the same.ImplicationsLearning styles have received a great deal of attention in recent years. On the one hand, this hasled to an increased understanding and acknowledgement that not everyone learns in the sameway. On the other hand, it has led to a rigid insistence by some adult learners that "this is theway I learn and it must be accommodated" and an incredible "juggling" act for designers and 12
  13. 13. facilitators who are trying to accommodate a whole range of learning styles. This is no less truein the online environment. The list of learning characteristics above attests to this.While designers and facilitators of online learning can use a variety of instructional techniques toengage as many learning styles as possible (a number of which have been highlighted above),they cannot accommodate every learning style. The real power of using learning styles is toprovide learners with the appropriate tools and insight to:• explore and identify their preferred approaches to learning• recognize when a particular experience may not meet their learning style• take steps to change the situation to suit their learning style, whether that be through individual effort, through seeking help from fellow learners or from asking for help from a facilitator• or, consciously move out of their comfort zone to develop competence in a variety of learning styles.This study has confirmed the value of this approach and provided a useful, if incomplete, list ofstrategies that could be shared with learners and designers/instructors alike.ConclusionsThis research confirms that Lawrence’s ideas on the MBTI and learning styles do translate to theonline environment. The authors acknowledge the limitations of this initial study. Not all typesare represented and, in particular sensing types are underrepresented. There were a limitednumber of participants. They knew each other and one of the researchers, which may not betypical. It was also difficult to tease out participant observations as they related to eachpreference of the MBTI. How each preference interacts with others within a particular type is achallenging concept to control for in a study, as noted in the thinking/feeling discussion above.Also, there are other models for online courses [15] and these need to be studied. The authorsfound it useful to use MBTI to think about how different people learn online, but this is only oneway of framing the issue.Overall, this study contributes to a body of experimental evidence about effective online coursedesign and delivery, which, to date, has been largely anecdotal.References1. Carl R. Rogers, ‘The interpersonal relationship in the facilitation of learning’, in Culture and the Processes of Adult Learning, ed. R. Edwards et al, London, Routledge, pp. 228 - 242. 19932. D. Billings, Learning style preferences and distance education: A review of literature and implications for research. American Center for the Study of Distance Education Research Monograph (8, Part 2) 19933. Isabel Briggs Myers and Peter Myers, Gifts Differing. Palo Alto, Consulting Psychologists Press. 19804. Sandra Hirsh and Jean Kummerow, Introduction to Type in Organizations, 2nd Edition. Palo Alto, Consulting Psychologists Press. 19905. Gordon Lawrence, People Types and Tiger Stripes. Center for Application of Psychological Type, Gainesville, Florida. 1979 13
  14. 14. 6. Charles Meisgeier, Elizabeth Murphy and Constance Meisgeier, A Teacher’s Guide to Type. California, Consulting Psychologists Press. 19897. Judith Provost and Scott Anchors, Applications of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator in Higher Education. California, Consulting Psychologists Press. 19878. Jean Kummerow, Nancy Barger and Linda Kirby, WORKTypes. New York, Warner Books. 19979. Timothy Sewall, The Measurement of Learning Style: A Critique of Four Assessment Tools, University of Wisconsin. 198610. Ellis Harsham, Psychological type on the electronic highway (Internet). Bulletin of Psychological Type, 17(3), 20-22. 199411. Jeb Livingood, Revenge of the introverts. Computer-Mediated Communication Magazine. [Accessed online at]. 199512. M.B. Owen and R.T. Liles, Relationship of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator to Internet use by educators. Proceedings of APT-XIII, the Thirteenth Biennial International Conference of the Association for Psychological Type (pp. 65-70). Scottsdale, AZ. 199913. Rena Palloff and Keith Pratt, Building learning communities in cyberspace. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. 199914. F.T. Bail, An exploration of relationships among psychological type, ethnicity, and computer- mediated communication. In R. A. Moody (Ed.), Psychological Type and Culture—East and West: A Multicultural Research Symposium (pp. 221-228). University of Hawaii, January 1993. Gainesville, FL: Center for Applications of Psychological Type. 199515. Robin Mason, Models of Online Courses. ALN Magazine 2 (2) October 1998 [Accessed online at] 1988 14