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Get to Know your Students with a Learner Preferences Survey

By Jessica O’Reilly, Instructional Developer, Teaching & Learning Innovation Hub

Read about Jess’ Updates to the Learner Preferences Survey for Fall 2019

I believe in the efficacy of the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) framework and have been making an effort to embed the UDL principles into all aspects of my teaching practice. While I’ve always invited students to tell me about their learning preferences at the beginning of a new semester, and do my best to adjust my teaching style to meet their expectations, this year I created a new tool to help me ask questions that align to the three main principles of UDL.

So far, students’ preferences are predictably varied. That’s fine by me, as I design my courses anticipating a high degree of learner variation. However, some interesting themes are emerging and I’m definitely going to adjust my approach to course communications and delivery based on what my students have told me. Further, just by inviting students into a conversation about their learning preferences, I’ve established myself as a supportive and flexible educator, and as someone who cares about their course experience. That alone is a win, particularly in a fully online context where establishing and maintaining rapport is something that I must actively and mindfully nurture.

Here are the questions contained in my Learner Preferences Survey. Please feel free to reuse and revise them in a way that makes sense in your context. You can also connect with Sarah Wendorf or I to help you build a survey using your preferred solution (there’s many options available; we can help guide you toward the one you’d like to use). If you decide to adopt this approach, I’d be very interested in discussing what your learners told you, and brainstorming approaches that will help you meet learners’ needs without creating an untenable amount of work!

Download and Customize this Form

If you work at Cambrian College, or another institution that has access to Office 365 online, click the button below to obtain your own copy of this form using Microsoft Forms. For Cambrian College staff, you’ll need to sign in to Office 365 using your Cambrian email address and password.

Learner Preferences Survey

This survey will help me design and deliver a learning experience that meets your needs and expectations.

Your Full Name:

Your Preferred Name / Nickname:

Your Preferred Email Address:


This portion of the survey focuses on your motivation, level of commitment, and preferences related to student-to-student and student-to-instructor interactions.  

Describe what success in this course looks like for you.

How confident are you in your ability to achieve your version of success?

How skilled are you at managing your schedule and making time for learning?

When learning something new, is it important for you to have an opportunity to connect your prior knowledge and experiences to the new concept?

Do you prefer to learn (select all that apply):


In a pair

In a small group

In a large group

I like to mix it up

Other (please indicate)

What is your preferred mode of communication with the course professor (select all that apply):

Moodle forums

Video updates

1-1 meetings in a per request basis

Drop-in office hours

Web conferencing



Social media channels

NB: I’m teaching a fully online course. You may want to add “During class / at the end of class” or something along those lines in the list above.


This portion of the survey poses questions related to perception and comprehension.

How do you prefer to take in new information (select all that apply):

I prefer a more traditional presentation / lecture format

I like interactive lectures that engage learners

I prefer to read

I prefer to listen (podcasts, radio)

I prefer to watch (videos, animations)

I like visuals (images, diagrams, concept maps)

When taking in new information, do you think that having a variety of formats to choose from helps your learning, or is it overwhelming? Please explain.

When watching a video, do you turn the closed captions / subtitles on?




Do you have a difficult time seeing certain colours?  If so, which colours are problematic for you?

Action and Expression

This portion of the survey poses questions related to how you will express what you already know and what you’ve learned.

How important is it for you to have choice and autonomy related to how you demonstrate your learning? Please explain.

Do you pay attention to rubrics, checklists, or other scoring criteria when completing course assignments? Please explain.

How do you prefer to receive feedback related to course assignments?

Please indicate your comfort level with the following:

NB: Likert runs from Very Uncomfortable to Very Comfortable

Using Moodle

Proofreading your work using spelling and grammar checkers

Accessing library resources

Recording and posting audio

Recording and posting video

Taking and posting photos

Creating visuals (concept maps, diagrams, drawings)

Delivering presentations

Final Word to You

Is there anything else that you’d like me to know about your learning preferences?

Do you have any questions you’d like to ask me?

Jessica O'Reilly
Instructional Developer

(705) 566-8101 x 6395


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