Who prefers online teaching and learning? The relevance of students’ personal characteristics and learning strategies


  • Jolanda Hermanns Zentrum für Lehrerbildung und Bildungsforschung
  • Ingrid Glowinski Institut für Biochemie und Biologie der Universität Potsdam




Background: Students’ learning is influenced by students’ personal characteristics and learning strategies. There are
learning-oriented and grade-oriented students. To predict study outcome, the “big five personality characteristics”
(Van Bragt et al., 2011) can be used. Those are extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, emotional stability and
autonomy as well as personal orientations on learning and students’ study approach. Other personality characteristics
are for example motivation or students’ self-concept. Three learning strategies have been mentioned in the literature:
cognitive, metacognitive and resource management learning strategies. Learning strategies can be defined as the learning
behaviour and the attitudes behind this behaviour.

Purpose: For online teaching in courses on STEM subjects, an online questionnaire was developed, used and evaluated.
The study focusses on relationships associated with students’ preference for online teaching and a preference for
classroom learning. The relationships between the students’ personal characteristics and attitudes and their general
learning strategies towards online learning have been evaluated.

Sample/Setting: The evaluation was conducted at a German university in the course “Organic chemistry for nonmajor
chemistry students”. 71 students participated in the evaluation of the course in weeks 4-5. The students were
informed on the use of their data for this study; ethical guidelines were followed. The students received a link for the
online questionnaire and participated anonymously.

Design Methods: Quantitative (online questionnaire) methods were used. The questionnaire consists of two parts:
questions on longtime learning behavior and questions on online learning. For the items an explorative factor analysis
was calculated for students’ personal characteristics, general learning strategies and the assessment of the online learning.
This resulted in 17 subscales. In addition, Spearman correlations between personal characteristics and selected
learning strategies and assessment of online learning have been calculated. A hierarchical regression analysis has been
used for predicting a preference for online learning versus classroom learning.

Results: Students’ enthusiasm and study satisfaction show a large correlation with their appreciation of online provided
as learning resources during the online term. However, these personal characteristics of students show only small
correlations with the preference for online learning and classroom learning. Positive correlations for online learning
show negative for classroom learning. The relevant learning strategies (“effort”, “general time management”, “literature
use”, “learning environment” and “control”) correlate mostly signficantly but always negatively in a small range with a
preference for classroom learning. Poorly developed general learning strategies could let students prefer the less selfregulated
learning. However, for predicting a preference for online learning, general learning strategies seem to have a
limited value. The successful mastering of the requirements during the online term seems to be more relevant, independent
from the expression of general learning strategies.

Conclusions/implications for classroom practice and future research: The questionnaire can be used for evaluating
online courses if the interest of the researcher or practitioner includes correlations between learning strategies
and personal characteristics with the teaching method. By using the questionnaire, interesting insights into those correlations
can be gained. Before teaching online courses, self-regulated learning (SRL) of students should be promoted
as it is known that students can acquire and strengthen self-regulatory processes. It could help students acclimatize to
the course requirements, general resources, and software resources. For future research it would be interesting to use
the questionnaire in an online course after the promotion of students’ SRL.

Keywords: organic chemistry, online-course, evaluation, personal characteristics of students, learning strategies

Author Biography

Jolanda Hermanns, Zentrum für Lehrerbildung und Bildungsforschung

Research assistant

Zentrum für Lehrerbildung und Bildungsforschung

Universität Potsdam