From curbside pickups to online therapy and virtual assistants, we’re turning to tech to help us through the unprecedented challenge of a global pandemic that requires physical distancing. While we’ve seen the benefits – and been proponents of online learning for a long time – we’re excited to see more businesses and organizations embrace self-directed learning, harnessing the incredible power of technology to make it every bit as impactful (or more so!) as in-classroom learning. Here’s why self-directed learning is trending right now – and why we think that’s a great thing.
Everyone who’s ever sat in a dull, poorly structured training session and wondered what the point was (so…everyone!) recognizes that not all learning opportunities are created equal – and not all of them are valuable. Online learning has so many benefits, but the option for self-directed learning is definitely one of the top. Here’s why.
There is so much that is out of our control (now, perhaps, more than ever), but, ultimately, we are in charge of our own lives and taking that responsibility in hand is empowering and exciting, particularly when it comes to learning. Self-directed learning gives people the opportunity to try new skills or simulate the experience of performing a complex task in a low-stakes environment or achieve certifications needed for career advancement opportunities.
Not everyone has the same experience in a classroom setting, even a virtual one, so being able to process the material and progress at their own, individual pace can give learners the space they need to develop confidence and not perpetuate negative self-images that they may have from previous experiences. The classroom environment is not right for everyone, nor is it a universal experience, and many learners find the in-classroom setting to be stressful. Self-directed learning gives learners an escape from the traditional classroom environment and allows for learning to become a positive experience in their lives.
You can continue to train or learn as much as you want to, deepening your knowledge and experience by following your own curiosity and timetable. From the American Journal of Education, “Graduates reported that for higher education and careers, the school benefitted them by allowing them to develop their own interests and by fostering such traits as personal responsibility, initiative, curiosity, and ability to communicate well with people regardless of status.
Now that many learners are not just working parents, but also working parents who are teaching virtual school and managing the stress of avoiding a contagious virus, their schedules look pretty different than they used to.
Self-directed learning allows learners the flexibility to learn when and where it works for them, with kids in the background or at 11pm when the house is (finally) silent. Don’t get it the first time? No problem. Self-directed learning gives you control over how much time you spend on any section or skill so that you can move forward when you’re ready and feel confident to do so. Just as importantly, learners who are ready to move forward are able to capitalize on their momentum and not become bored by material they’ve already mastered while waiting for the rest of the class to catch up to their level.
We’re lifelong learners here at Vector Solutions, and we know that most eLearners, who are often self-directed learners, are lifelong learners, too. Self-directed learners aren’t reliant on an instructor or institution to pace their progress or require accountability, so they have developed the ability to tap into their own intrinsic motivation and curiosity to pursue the knowledge and skills that interest them.
Adult learners also learn differently; they don’t want to be spoon fed knowledge by instructors. Self-directed learning gives learners the opportunity to pursue career-advancing knowledge and skills without waiting for their managers to set up a classroom training session or sign off on an educational opportunity which might take them off-site or require their attendance during work hours for an extended period of time.
We all came into this world as self-directed learners and, as a species, are incredibly adept at adapting to our changing environment. As we’ve seen during this pandemic, our shift to remote working and learning was sudden and dramatic and, yet, here we are, finding new tools and technologies to make the very best of it. By nurturing our innate ability to self-direct, we’re setting ourselves up for success not just in our coursework, but in our ability to apply that same skill set in our professional lives, furthering our careers and becoming more resilient leaders and team members.
While so much of the success that’s found through self-directed learning belongs to the learner, impactful tools and technology can make or break their experience. From a comprehensive Learning Management System to leveraging cutting edge technology like Microlearning and Simulation Training to make self-directed learning even more impactful and successful, your organization is poised to attract, nurture and retain top talent. Organization leaders need to create and foster these opportunities and walk the walk by encouraging their talent to participate and creating flexibility and time for them to do so.