Self-directed learning in training

Benefits of self-directed learning

1. Time management and pacing

Allowing your learners to access their training at the time that best suits them means they can optimize their schedules. Learning will be organized based on due dates and deadlines.  

Self-directed learning also allows learners to move at their own pace. Leraning Management Systems (LMS) can effectively facilitate self-directed learning: the material is always available, so learners can refer back to it any time they need to.

2. Learner autonomy

Providing adult learners with learner autonomy  is one way of enhancing motivation and participation. When you give learners the benefit of autonomy, they become active agents in their own education, and they’re more motivated and engaged. 

3. Always available

Using LMS in training, thetraining is available for the learners at all times. They don’t need to book time with a trainer to clarify a point, they can simply check it. The materials are always there.

The Self-Directed Learning Cycle

Self-Directed learning cycle: Set goal, Plan, Learn, Show, then Reflect


Self-directed learning strategies

1. Motivate your learners to take courses

With self-directed learning, your learners usually will have to opt-in to the course. The training has to prove that it’s worth the time and effort of the learners. The value of the course has to be demonstrated to the learners so they’re encouraged to enroll. 

2. Create a catalog of content

The learners should meet an environment that makes it easy to achieve. 

LMS training programs can be filled with a variety of different materials: courses, resources, PDF’s, videos, webinars, and more that are of value to your audiences. They can then pick and choose what they want to consume at a time that suits them best and they’ll always have content to learn from.

3. Set up a blog or forum your trainees can contribute to

For employee training, you can give your learners a general topic, and ask them to do some background research on it. After that, they need to hone in on a particular challenge or opportunity within that arena and write a blog post about it. They choose the specific topic or angle of the post, and must ensure any opinions or ideas they put forward are backed up by research. 

So, a simple task like familiarizing yourself with the company’s diversity and inclusion policy might result in blog posts like ‘10 Ways to Make Your Office More Wheelchair Friendly’ or ‘How Gen Z can Reverse Mentor your Senior Managers’.

To make it easy for you and your learners, you can set this as an assignment in your LMS or even get your employees to post it to your LMS forum to make it simple for you to review. 

Your learner’s end up far more engaged in, and educated on, the topic, and your company has a brand new resource which they can share internally or externally. You can also encourage learners to comment on each other’s posts so they can collectively build on their ideas.

4. Choose interactive workshops over long lectures

It’s estimated that the human attention span lasts for no more than 10 to 20 minutes. It can be difficult to stay focused on a trainer – whether in person or on a webinar – for extended periods of time. As well as exercises that are 100% self-directed, you can break up long lectures with opportunities for self-directed learning, aka microlearning

If you’re showing a group of developers how to write a piece of code, give them the opportunity to write some every now and then, allowing them to get creative, experiment, and learn from their own mistakes. 

If you’re training on a new piece of marketing software, don’t just talk about it – make sure your learners have access to it and allow them to explore and experiment at regular intervals. 

At the end of a module, you can break the group up into small teams to embark on a project. Self-directed learning doesn’t have to happen in isolation, small groups work just fine too.

Constructivism  and Cognitive Learning Theory  both posit that the more actively involved a learner is in the process, the more engaged they’ll be and the more learning they’ll retain for the future.

Limitations and challenges of self-directed learning

While self-directed learning has many benefits, there are also some drawbacks. Some learners may struggle to self-motivate and fall behind, while others might prefer to be able to lean on an instructor at all times. 

Last modified: Monday, 20 June 2022, 3:00 PM