Why Self-Directed Learning is Essential in Education Today



Brian Shulman

Blended learning is a staple in education today, but years ago it was a new concept. We define blending learning as having two components: face-to-face instruction with a teacher, intermingled with collaborative group work with peers, and online learning that is personalized and self-paced.

Lately, when I read about the online learning portion of blended learning programs, the emphasis seems to be heavy on personalization. Specifically, how online programs make it easier for teachers to identify individual student learning gaps, customize curriculums, track progress and differentiate instruction. Personalization is key; but I don’t seem to read enough about another important aspect of online learning, which is self-directed learning.

 My good friend and education mentor, Raymond J. McNulty, who is Dean of Education at Southern New Hampshire University and author of It’s Not Us Against Them: Creating the Schools We Need, often presents on “The Rise of the Self-Learner.”

Last year, at Dr. Bill Daggett’s annual Model Schools Conference, Ray asked: “What do we mean by learning? If learning is about productive learning, ‘students wanting to learn more,’ then it suggests a transfer of power over the learning from the teacher to the student.” He also tweeted: “A teacher who teaches a student to learn without them, prepares the student for success in the 21st Century.”

We created the Stride™ online learning program 16 years ago with the same basic tenet in mind –we have to motivate students to learn on their own in order to thrive in this 21st Century world. It is overflowing with knowledge readily accessible to them. We spent countless hours of development and discovery by partnering with schools in all socio-economic settings to refine Stride as a toolkit for learning that students would willingly and eagerly engage in. – At the same time, we ensured the program supported the academic outcomes desired by educators.

By definition, self-directed learning occurs where students have a degree of control over the time, pace and place of their learning. Students begin to feel ownership of their learning, begin to self-evaluate, reflect on their progress and set goals for learning more.

Students are picky about what they like, much like educators. So it is critical that an educational technology program delivers in every key area that is important to both parties. After all, the classroom experience is not one-sided.

When students are provided with a highly enjoyable experience, they are more motivated to work harder on academics. They are also more willing to work independently and on their own time. That is the true essence of a self-directed learner.

Read the full article: Why Self-Directed Learning Belongs in your Blended Learning Program Brian Shulman Blog

Brian Shulman is a pioneer in educational technology, healthcare services investing and youth sportsmanship initiatives. Follow him on Twitter @brianshulman1, and on Facebook.

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