Article Review #2: Cult of Personality

Daughenbaugh, R., Daughenbaugh, L., Surry, D., & Islam, M. (2002). Personality type and                     online versus in-class course satisfaction. Educase Quarterly, 3, 71-72.

Full paper available from as published in the Proceedings of the 7th Annual Mid-South Instructional Technology Conference (Teaching, Learning, & Technology: The Connected Classroom) in Murfreesboro, TN, April 7-9, 2002.

UAF has an annual Academic Leadership Institute (ALI) in which faculty and staff meet with the Provost/Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and discuss case studies and other topics related to leadership in higher education settings. The book that ALI participants read for the most recent meeting was Susan Cain’s Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking. The group spent some time discussing how new technologies may help or hinder the comfort level of introverts in an academic setting. Personally, I love using e-mail and instant messaging, but hate being “live” in a video chat. I purposely include discussion board posts as assignments in my FTF classes under the assumption that quieter students may find typing a more palatable way to participate. So, I decided to see what some research says about personality and online versus offline learning.

Daughenbaugh et al. (2002) utilized the Kiersey Temperament Sorter, which is a 70-item scale they feel is comparable to Myers-Briggs and rates extroversion/introversion as one of four sets of individual differences. The second measure was a course satisfaction survey. Both instruments were filled out on the Web by a total of 146 students taking “introductory computer courses” from the same department at the same southern university. About half of the participants were undergrads and half were grads. Most (78%) were female and most (81.5%) were taking an FTF course. The assymetries in course type limit the findings. It would have been nice to see more even Ns for the FTF versus online students since that is one of the major comparison points. The authors tested for gender effects and found none.

The break-out of the two types were roughly 56% extrovert and 34% introvert (9% uncategorized; did not total to 100%). This is consistent with projections of proportions of introverts in the general population. The general hypothesis was that introverted students would exhibit a higher preference for online courses compared to extroverted students. However, the findings did not bear that out. The authors summarize, “The extroverts liked the involvement of the chat rooms, threaded discussion, and e-mail correspondences of the online courses” while “introverts, by contrast, had little participation in chatting or threaded discussions, though they did participate in e-mail more than any of the other participatory activities.”

The differences seemed to be driven not just by extroversion/introversion but those traits in combination with scores on intuition/sensing and judging/perception. The authors also compared students taking a FTF class with students taking an online class. Here were additional findings (p. 72):

  • We found that the intuitive, rather than the sensitive, personalities preferred the online course environment to more traditional, in-class situations.
  • The perception group expressed stronger preferences for the amount of student interaction than the judging group.
  • We found that in-class students expressed much stronger satisfaction with the in-class environment than did students who were in the online courses.

There are 16 possible result combinations for the personality instrument, similar to Myers-Briggs (ESTJ, INTP, etc.) For the sake of brevity I won’t further analyze this section.

The authors end by recommending that more research be done, that teachers pay attention to different learning styles that may be related to personality differences, and that classes incorporate “means to increase student interaction in online courses” (p. 72). Since the authors found that extroverted students really enjoyed and were active in the online environment, the authors’ conclusion seem to cater to them, with suggestions of group projects, face time, and even a “students-only” discussion board. As an introvert, all of those suggestions make me cringe. I think the authors are overlooking a huge question that needs to be answered: WHY weren’t the introverted students more engaged, given the supposedly less face-threatening environment of online discussion boards? WHY did they enjoy e-mail but not chats? If the current set-up is leaving them less satisfied, why on earth would you further alienate introverts by adding extrovert-slanted activities like group work?

I would also love to see this replicated for participants pursuing different subject matter. I found a discrepancy between the summary article and the original conference paper; The former claims these were students in introductory computer skills courses, while the conference paper claims they are students in various different courses (an acknowledged limitation of the study). Replicating this study with a group of undergraduate students all taking the basic speech course, some online and some FTF, might be a tighter design (at UAF the basic speech course curriculum is standardized).

5 thoughts on “Article Review #2: Cult of Personality

  1. Owen

    Hey Alda,

    Nice post. I read the “Quiet” book also – I was in last year’s ALI cohort. I have many traits of a classic introvert, but I have also changed over time a bit, becoming more social and more outgoing as I’ve grown older – largely because of professional and academic opportunities for personal growth.

    This topic raises several formidable questions. What is our obligation toward accommodating a variety of learning styles? The more time I spend teaching, and the more I am exposed to this area, I realize that there is a vast spectrum of cognitive and social abilities.

    Should the Computer Science department cater to students who have a hard time with math?

    Should the Counseling department cater to students who have a hard time with personal communications?

    How much do we favor the inherently strong and how much do we scaffold those who struggle in a given subject?

  2. Jenny

    Initially I was surprised that your article found extroverts to be more satisfied with online courses than introverts. However, after reconsidering, I think that the online courses I have taken have become much more interactive over time. I think there has been a push to get courses to increase the social interactions between students and while this might be beneficial for extroverts it can be particularly painful to introverts. In most entry level courses on a large university campus, classes can easily have 500 students. It is easy to envision being able to blend in and not feel the pressure to participate in this environment. As an introvert your level of required interaction would be lower in a face-to-face classroom than in an online class where there are mandated discussions. I think that you are right when saying “why on earth would you further alienate introverts by adding extrovert-slanted activities?” As educators don’t we have a duty to help accommodate the learning style of approximately a third of the population?


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