How Learning Styles Impact E-learning: a case comparative study of undergraduate students who excelled, passed, or failed an online course in scientific/technical writing.

William West
Simon Rosser
Salma Monani
Laura Gurak


Online classes appear increasingly popular, making it critical in each discipline to study the advantages and disadvantages of learning online. Following up on anecdotal impressions that scientific/technical writing students appeared to do either better or worse in an online course than an offline equivalent (unpublished data), it was decided to study the impact of learning style and experience in using the Internet on grades. The 60 students who participated in an online course on scientific/technical writing were emailed post-course evaluations which included questions on learning styles. Of these, 37 (62%) returned the evaluations, revealing a clear and significant pattern of results. While the groups did not differ in hours spent studying online, or in total hours spent online, students who excelled in online learning reported spending significantly more hours per week online for work, and less hours online contacting families/friends than students who passed or students who failed. Students who excelled differed significantly from other students in their learning strategies and study habits and frequency with which they contacted the instructor. Students who excelled in this online class appear more experienced both in working online and have study habits conducive to the online environment. Curiously, students who performed marginally or failed were more likely to rate themselves as making good use of study time, and may spend significantly longer online on assignments than the moderate students. The need to design courses that elicit specific habits or to teach students study habits specific to online learning appear critical tasks to improve the success and retention rates in online courses.



Both in-person and online versions of the course were being offered, and online students were receiving substantially higher grades.
Students who excelled in the course started using the internet 2 years before the average students and spent more time on work-related business while on the business.
The study found that the excelling students employed different study skills than the other groups including: check points of assignments, read assignment materials, read the text, interact with the instructor among others.
Weaknesses of the study include small selection size, and self-selection of study participants.

APA Citation

West, W., Rosser, B. S., Monani, S., & Gurak, L. (2006). How Learning Styles Impact E-learning: a case comparative study of undergraduate students who excelled, passed, or failed an online course in scientific/technical writing. E-Learning and Digital Media, 3(4), 534-543.

About the Study

Links to Article
Mode Online
Publication Type Journal Article
In Publication E-Learning
Type of Research Quantitative
Research Design Survey research (qualitative or quantitative)
Intervention/Areas of Study Student readiness
Level of Analysis Student-level
Specific Populations Examined Undergraduates
Peer-Reviewed Yes
Specific Institutional Characteristics of Interest
Specific Course or Program Characteristics STEM
Outcome Variables of Interest Academic achievement or performance, including assessment scores and course grades
Student Sample Size 0-99
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