Given that one to two thirds of the U.S. population self-identify as introverts, a question that has been circling our most important institutions, workplaces and schools are—how can we modify these spaces so they accommodate introverts and extroverts equally?
Since watching Susan Cain’s TedTalk, the Power of Introverts, we haven’t been able to stop thinking about how online learning is ideal for individuals who crave peaceful and quiet environments to learn in. If you’re confused about the difference between introverts and extroverts, let me explain.
It is a common misconception that introverts are shy loners who prefer to be tucked away from people. As Cain explains, shyness is about fear of social judgment whereas introversion is about how one responds to social stimulation and stimulation in general. Extroverts then are those who crave large amounts of stimulation and are more productive in high energy and busier atmospheres. This can be compared to introverts who are happier in quieter, low-key environments that aren’t as busy. People of course are not strictly black and white introverts or extroverts, but they do typically err to one side more than another.
A well-known study by psychologist Russel Geen proves this. By providing children with learning tests to answer in varying levels of background noise, he discovered that extroverts preformed best with louder noise and conversely introverts did better with softer noise. Due to this, many are calling for reform of classrooms and workplaces which all too often reward extroverts over introverts.
Incorporating elements of online learning into schools and workplaces
There are many simple ways to modify workplaces and schools so introverts are able to both learn and work easier and more productively. Simple spatial changes such as creating areas where there are quiet nooks and crannies for students and employees to move to will surely go a long way.
Additional methods look at ways to integrate technology and mobile devices into the classroom and workplace to give introverts options. For example, when teachers utilize online blended learning methods, students are able to work through course work on their own time in spaces where they are most comfortable. Since introverts function best in small groups of 2-3 people, discussions and partner work can be incorporated to reflect on learning outcomes.
Furthermore, when participating online, introverts can better utilize their reflective nature when engaging in group discussion forums or writing online blogs to share with classmates. All too often, introverts get drowned out and looked past in classroom discussions as extroverts pipe up to provide their two cents.
Some of the world’s most impactful leaders have been introverts—Eleanor Roosevelt, Rosa Parks and Gandhi to name a few. It is time to start considering the one to two-thirds of the U.S. population who identify as introverts to provide them with learning and work environments where they thrive. The world will only have so much more to gain by allowing these thoughtful, reflective and creative minds to flourish.
For more content like this, check out our Guide to Accessible E-learning. Though often thought of in relation to people with physical disabilities, web accessibility benefits all users—making it easier for them to perceive, understand, navigate, interact, and contribute to the information and functionality that make up your learning management system.