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Kinesthetic Learning and Online Science Education

Norma Hollebeke
Director of Strategic Initiatives

The inspiration for this article came from the plenary session “Shaping the Future of Online Learning: Issues and Emerging Technologies to Watch” at the 21st Annual OLC International Conference this past October. An attendee commented that online learning usually addresses the auditory and visual learning styles, but that the kinesthetic is not really addressed as well in online formats as it is in the classroom. The attendee then asked, how can online learning make it (kinesthetic learning) commonplace?

The question is a valid one; the response is what really caught my attention. One of the panelists, Thomas Cavanagh, Associate Vice President, Center for Distributed Learning, University of Central Florida, responded: “It's a big challenge, and I don't know if technology has caught up with the challenge. There are great advances in haptics and other kinds of forced feedback and things to kind of help with kinesthetic learning. But if you are going to be a bench chemist, it's awfully hard to learn how to pipet online. You kind of need somebody standing next to you.”

Kinesthetic learning is critical

The laboratory is at the center of science education and scientists agree that the best way to learn science is to do science. The American Chemical Society has published the position statement “Importance of Hands-on Laboratory Science” that states: “Web-based and computer-simulated activities may help increase student exposure to chemistry, reduce costs, and eliminate hazardous waste and safety concerns; however, these tools cannot be considered as equivalent replacements for hands-on laboratory experiences. The Society believes that there is no equivalent substitute for hands-on activities where materials and equipment are used safely and student experiences are guided.”

Wet labs are an excellent training tool for encouraging hands-on, active learning; motivating students; and providing the opportunity for students to connect what occurs in the classroom with their lives and the world around them. Science courses require these active learning strategies, which are at the heart of scientific inquiry, and online courses are no exception. So, how do we incorporate kinesthetic learning in an online learning environment traditionally based on sight and sound?

Kits for kinesthetic learning

Well-designed online science courses using lab kits for the kinesthetic component foster a successful learning environment. Tactile learners benefit from hands-on discovery and achieve higher-level cognitive realms when they physically interact with components. Lab kits deliver the appropriate proficiencies for students in direct, hands-on experimentation. These include observation, innovation, reasoning, and problem solving. Students manipulate lab equipment, ask questions, observe, analyze, explain, draw conclusions, and ask new questions.

For more than 85 years, Carolina Biological Supply Company has been leading the way in science education. As innovators in this field, we are proud to be on the cutting edge with products you can trust and rely on. Our Carolina Distance Learning™ staff provides world-class support to educators every step of the way with advice, guidance, and college-level lab kits that support the vital kinesthetic learning component of online science courses.

Visit us online to learn more, contact a Distance Learning Specialist, and view our kits.


American Chemical Society. (2016). Importance of Hands-on Laboratory Science. Retrieved from http://www.acs.org/content/acs/en/policy/publicpolicies/invest/computersimulations.html

Dinkel, Ann Marie. (2011, June 25). Training the Kinesthetic Learner. ALN Magazine. Retrieved from http://www.alnmag.com/articles/2011/06/training-kinesthetic-learner

Hofstein, Avi and Lunetta, Vincent N. (1982). The Role of the Laboratory in Science Teaching: Neglected Aspects of Research. Review of Educational Research, 52, 201–217.

Marincola, Elizabeth. (2016, February 2). Hands-on Learning Boosts Success in the Classroom and Beyond.  The Huffington Post. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/elizabeth-marincola/stem-teaching-hands-on-_b_1865146.html

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