The Relationship Between Student Characteristics, Including Learning Styles and Their Perceptions and Satisfaction in Web-Based Courses in Higher Education


Distance education and web-based courses are mainstream in the United States higher education and growing (NCES, 2003) involving over 80% of four year public universities in 2002. The National Academy of Science review of “how people learn” suggests that technology-mediated learning can be used to respond to students’ preferences and related characteristics. This investigation of the relationships between learners’ characteristics and their perception of web-based learning and satisfaction with their course used Kolb’s (1984) Learning Styles Inventory and Walker’s (2003) distance education learning environment instrument plus demographic questions to survey 279 students in five web-based undergraduate courses in a Midwestern university. The study founds that the three dimensions of Moore’s Transactional Distance Theory may be linked with Kolb’s two dimensional views of individual learning styles. For example, introductory biology courses with high structure are perceived as more satisfactory by students who prefer a more “abstract conceptual” learning style for “knowledge grasping.” The author recommends that courses are designed to accommodate multiple learning styles with variety on all dimensions of transactional distance.

KEYWORDS: Distance Learning, Learning Styles, Transactional Distance.