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Introversion and the Online Classroom

According to the Center for Applications of Psychological Type (CAPT), 47 to 55 percent of the U.S. population favors introversion over extroversion. If you are someone who is usually happy being alone, communicates best one-on-one or in writing, engages in ongoing, quiet reflection, and finds large groups or parties tiring, you may be among those who lean toward the introversion side of the spectrum (Cain, 2013). Additional common characteristics of introverts may include needing time alone to "recharge your batteries," wanting time to think carefully before articulating ideas, and preferring a more reserved posture versus a gregarious disposition (Laney, 2002).

girl-with-bookRecent explorations of the introversion dynamic in relation to learning have started to produce mounting evidence of a potential benefit for introverted students in online courses. For those learners who fall within the 47 to 55 percent of the population who favor introversion over extroversion, the online learning environment can mean richer participation, deeper and more meaningful discussions, as well as a higher opportunity to utilize and develop writing skills (Cain, 2013; Laney, 2002; Myers, I.B. & Myers, P.B., 1980).

Online discussions, for example, level the playing field for participation. While face-to-face, classroom discussions may often be dominated by outgoing extroverts who frequently take the lead in open discourses, the online discussion forum provides an opportunity for all students to participate equally in dialogue. Additionally, online forums provide students more time to process through the questions presented, and more time for unhurried reflection of the topic before a response is elicited. Investigators are finding that this flexibility, which yields extra time and reflection, can lead to deeper, more meaningful learning (Cain, 2013).

Moreover, since online coursework inherently thrives on written over verbal communication, introverts may not only favor the communication modality, but may also perform better academically, since their preference and skills trend toward the written word (Myers, I.B. & Myers, P.B., 1980).

Striking a balance is key. Ultimately, an online course needs to appeal to learners in a way that taps into their learning styles. Moreover, "it should be remembered that introversion-extroversion is a continuum and not a dichotomy. Most students are neither totally introverted nor totally extroverted. They require both quiet and stimulating learning environments” (Schemeck & Lockhart, 1983).


Cain, S. (2013). Quiet: The power of introverts in a world that can't stop talking. New York: Random House, Inc.

Henjum, A. (1982) Introversion: A misunderstood ‘individual difference’ among students. Education, 103, 39-43.

Laney, M.O. (2002). The introvert advantage: How quiet people can thrive in an extrovert world. New York: Workman Publishing Company, Inc.  

Meisgeier, C., Murphy, E. & Meisgeier, C. (1989). A teachers’ guide to type: A new perspective on individual differences in the classroom. Palo Alto, CA: Consulting Psychologists Press.

Myers, I.B. & Myers, P.B. (1980). Gifts differing. Palo Alto, CA: Consulting Psychologists Press.

Schemeck, R. & Lockhart, D. (1983). Introverts and extraverts require different learning environments: A learning environment stimulating enough for extraverted students may be too stimulating for introverted students (and for the teacher). Educational Leadership: Journal of the Department of Supervision and Curriculum Development, N.E.A.