Do Our Learning Environments Affect How We Learn?

Do Our Learning Environments Affect How We Learn?

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We all live in completely different environments, but can it affect the way we learn? If you choose to learn from home, how can you optimise your new learning environments to help you learn more effectively?

Mature students working in successful learning environments in the library

Reminiscing about our school or college days brings back many memories. We have fond memories of great teachers, exciting subjects and great learning environments in which we learned all kinds of things, many of which stay with us today.

But then we have the not-so-good memories, the boring lessons that failed to ignite imagination or our desire to learn.

The truth is, behind both sets of experiences are several factors that combined to either satisfy our desire to learn or don’t.

As you stand on the precipice of a new educational adventure, how can you confidently stop this dullness creeping into your studies?

Creating successful learning environments at home

Self-managing your own learning negates the need to spend hours in a classroom being led through a course by a teacher or instructor. This removes the ‘personality clashes or connections’ that are so prominent in more formal educational settings.

And we all know that in life, we get on with some people but not others. It makes sense that we won’t get on with every teacher or tutor we come across. With distance learning, your tutor is there to offer you support as you self-manage your own learning.

As you are learning at your own pace in a way that you like, you retain control. But each of our learning environments – the home for many learning distance students – needs to meet all kinds of needs.

In this blog, we’ll look at these factors in our learning environments.

#1 Physical Factors 

Our learning environments are incredibly important. In fact, studies show that the environment in which we learn can affect a student’s progress by as much as 25%. In other words, get the surroundings right, and you can reach for the stars and beyond.

However, there is no magic formula for creating the idyllic learning environment because it shifts depending on individual learner’s perception of everything from colour to whether the space is tidy and so on.

However, studies have found that there are physical aspects that affect how well-received learning environments are;

  • Colour should stimulate but not over-excite or depress the senses
  • Organisation is key too with resources and equipment being stored in a way that makes them accessible
  • Cleanliness is something else that gets a mention with studies of formal classrooms showing that a clean space also affects how well students learn
  • Supplies and resources are also important, so making sure you have everything you need to complete your studies, whether that is coloured pencils or textbooks.

Seeing as you are studying in your own home, you can create the perfect learning environment that suits you.

And this may be one reason why learning in a formal classroom may not suit you. Studies have found that students need around 4 feet of personal space in a classroom, one argument for small class sizes.

There is also evidence to suggest that when a student gets involved with creating their learning environment, this sense of ownership also contributes to a more positive learning environment.

The findings prove what many home students already know – creating and organising their own physical learning environment is one key to success.

#2 Structural Factors 

The first point touched on this fleetingly, but it is an important point in creating a positive learning environment.

Structure refers to organisation and again, there are research projects and findings that confirm what we already know – a disorganised, chaotic learning environment, whether that is a desk in a study or one in a classroom, is not the best for successful or enhancing learning.

But what else do these research findings tell us?

  • The right furniture – ergonomics is the study of efficiency in furniture and other physical items, something that is important in creating a structured learning environment. Studies suggested that when students have the right furniture and equipment, and that it is good condition, they find the environment more conducive to learning.
  • Comfort – being uncomfortable is distracting. Not having enough seats or not having a good position in the classroom is not the environment that lends itself to focussing on what you should be.
  • Freedom of movement – it has also been suggested that when movement is necessary for a workspace or classroom, that being able to do so without being hindered is key. Again, this is an argument used in class sizes being too big in schools.
  • Visibility – for many students, being able to see adequately is part of being involved in learning. The same is true for other senses too.

What this means for the home learner is that you need to spend time creating the right structure for your learning environment. Invest in good quality resources and the have the supplies to hand that you need. This could be something like a notebook, pens and pencils or it may mean more specialised equipment and resources.

Being comfortable is key too, and although you may think being snuggled in bed is the right space for you to learn, is it supporting you physically so that you can truly focus on what you need to do?

Don’t underestimate the importance of creating your own learning environment, something that we covered in a previous article, ‘How to learn at home’. Choose to work where you feel comfortable but supported. Be prepared to invest in your learning environment, just as you are committed to investing time and energy into your course.

#3 Psychological Factors

The third factor in creating ideal learning environments relates to the psychological aspects of study success. Although a lot of the findings relate to the classroom, as do those mentioned in the previous two points, there are still valuable lessons for those students undertaking home learning courses.

Effectively, the psychology of learning is concerned with behaviour, positivity, motivation and a clear structure. But how can we apply this to online and distance learning?


Negativity can come from various sources, from family, friends and partners not necessarily offering you the support and encouragement you need. Negativity brings about anxiety and poor performance too, therefore, maintaining a positive mood and behaviour around your studying at home is important.

In terms of physical environment, this may be creating a designated space for you to work.


Here at NCC Home Learning, we have written extensively on the positive aspects of learning, including a recent article on following your career goals in 2018. In this, we address issues such as creating bite-size chunks so that you have a clearly defined pathway to reach your goals.

Receiving your course materials and log in details for your online cause is exciting. But daunting and for some students, frightening. There seems a lot to be done and when concepts don’t fall into place easily, it can feel like you are climbing a mountain with no scaffolding for support.

It is important to remain positive and this means harnessing motivation.


Learning is about improving your skill set and knowledge.

But it is so much more – it is valuable, something that excites and enthrals you, a process that scares you because you are making positive changes in your life. It can mean a promotion or a whole new career.

It can be a ‘hobby’ too, something that you enjoy doing.

Understanding what motivates you in your learning is one factor in your success as a student. This is very important for students who are self-managing their own learning because, without a driver, it is easy for your course to fall by the wayside.


We have already referred to the organisation of the physical space of your learning environment where you have everything to hand but this is about the structure of your course, and you, as a learner.

Research has shown that when learning is organised, whether this is modules or interlinked units when students understand what the expectations of them are, they respond positively to the learning laid out before them.

If you know, as an online learner, that you have an assignment per unit to complete, and that there are 10 modules to complete, you understand the expectations for successfully completing the course.

Learning Environments: In Summary

Learning from home is fun and exciting, a fantastic opportunity for you to expand your qualifications, learn new skills and take another step in your career.

But, the learning environment needs to be right. This refers to the physical space in which you choose to learn. It needs to be well-lit, comfortable and warm.

It also refers to the structure of this physical environment. You need to be able to access resources, whether that is a pen or a PC, a notebook or coloured pencils. It needs to be an organised physical learning space too.

And finally, the learning environment needs to support you psychologically too. By studying in a pleasant, comfortable space you remain positive and motivated in your learning.

Think about the learning environments you’ve found yourself learning in? Have they helped the process? Hindered it? Leave some suggestions on how to create healthy learning environments in the comments!


Nick Cooper
Nick is NCC's resident blog author and covers a range of subjects, including teaching and health & social care. NCC is an international learning provider with over 20 years’ experience offering learning solutions. To date, NCC has engaged with over 20,000 employers, and delivered quality training to over half a million learners.
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