‘Self-directed’ vs. ‘Self-paced’ Learning

While reading the article, “Why we need to stop using ‘self-paced’ in Competency Based Education (CBE) descriptions,” I had my higher education ‘hat’ on when suddenly I was struck by the similarities between workplace goals of cultivating a ‘learning culture’ and competency based learning in higher education.

As organizations and job roles are evolving at a rapid pace, colleagues are encouraged to aggressively seek learning opportunities. To support this initiative, many forward thinking organizations provide colleagues access to self-directed learning portals like lynda.com. However, we do learners a disservice, if we don’t make it clear that making progress towards learning goals is not, and should not be completely ‘self-paced.’

Here is where I see the parallel between self-directed learning in a business environment and CBE degree programs. To ensure satisfactory progress, milestones and deadlines should be negotiated and agreed upon. In the workplace, an agreement would be between a colleague and their manager. As indicated in the article, the timeline doesn’t need to be engraved in stone, however learners left to their own devices will be distracted. In the workplace, providing learning support such as a ‘success coach’ is not intrusive, it’s supportive.

The point is not for leadership within organizations to dictate exactly what is learned. Research has shown, that adult learners are more engaged when learning is self-directed. The point is to ensure that both the learning goal and a specified time frame for completion is agreed upon.

What difference do you make?

At every good job interview, there is at least one ‘nagging’ question that follows you home. One that has forever stayed with me is: ‘What do you bring to the table, that isn’t already here?’

Ok…what do you say that won’t come off as arrogant to a team that has decades of experience in an industry or field that you are just starting out in? Yeah, you know you have transferable skills, but which ones do they value? All these questions were racing through my head! Meanwhile, the hiring manager was waiting for a memorable response, especially after so much thought was put into it. Eventually, I simply said: ‘You’ve stumped me with this one.’ Despite fumbling that ball, I did get the job. Though my response was uninspired, the question has inspired me from that day on.

Whatever you do and wherever you go, you need to know what difference you make. However, if you are not sure what difference you make, don’t beat yourself up. It requires ongoing self-reflection. Just keep in mind that self-discovery is not all about internal reflection, it’s also about how you interact with other people. Be warned: It’s that interaction that often is a bit of a revelation to you and to others!

Personal Relationships and Business – An Odd Couple

Organizations often give ‘lip service’ to the idea that what is important to the individuals that make it up, really matters. However, you won’t observe a high level of pride, dedication, and commitment to an organization’s mission and vision, unless that sentiment is more than just talk. Much time and money is invested trying to identify what behaviors demonstrate a high level of engagement within organizations. Should it require a lot of independent research to determine if someone you are in relationship with, is ‘just not into you?’

Mutually beneficial relationships are a two way street. In order for organizations to know if people are truly engaged, they need to ask them. Person to person, not survey to employee. The leadership in organizations must make it a priority to give, the same thing they want to receive: a high level of pride, dedication, and commitment to an individual’s mission and vision.

In recent years, there has been much talk about how to define an effective framework for ‘performance management.’ Showing genuine commitment to helping individuals develop and accomplish their personal goals may at first glance seem secondary when it comes to business. However, taking a ‘business comes first’ approach, may result in a huge missed opportunity. If the leadership in an organization determines the corporate goals, cascades them down, and then individuals are advised to ‘align’ their goals to the corporate goals, why would anyone be surprised to discover that there is a ‘disconnect’ which reveals itself as a ‘lukewarm’ commitment to the goals.

Showing genuine commitment to helping individuals develop and accomplish their personal goals as a primary rather than secondary objective of performance management will reveal the source of the ‘disconnect.’ If I’m ‘just not into you’ we both need to find that out… sooner rather than later.

Entrepreneurial Spirit

I was very intrigued by the article The True Meaning of ‘Entrepreneur’ by @SteveTobak. According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, an entrepreneur is “one who organizes, manages and assumes the risks of a business or enterprise.” I feel like the general definition of ‘entrepreneur’ just does not communicate the essence of what many of us recognize as ‘entrepreneurial spirit.’

For an entrepreneur to execute their personal vision, they need to attract ‘like-minded’ individuals. By ‘like-minded,’ I don’t mean ‘yes men’ that think exactly as they do. I mean individuals that recognize that same entrepreneurial spirit within themselves, driving them to produce a product or provide a service to solve a problem. This resulting synergy produces something much greater than each individual could produce on their own. It produces a corporate vision.

If you don’t fuel the entrepreneurial spirit that lies within you, you will have nothing to contribute to a corporate vision. Whether you are working in a home-based business, a startup, or a fortune 500 company, it’s that spirit that is essential to your success.

Survival of the Fittest

As forward thinking organizations aim for greater transparency, paying close attention to the change management strategy throughout the transformation can be an invaluable learning experience. If your initial response is to play it safe and prepare to jump ship due to the uncertainty, think again! Without a doubt, looking out for #1 and discovering WIIFM should be your highest priority. However, strengthening the muscles used to thrive during ‘the best and the worst of times’ will give you ‘staying power.’ Due to rapid change being ‘the new normal,’ the ability to exercise ‘staying power’ during trying times is a quality that is gaining value. Whether you choose to stay or you choose to go, you want it to be ‘your choice.’


Thanks to technological advances, never in history have we been expected to cope with such rapid change. For companies  that are sensitive to what their customers want and need, business goals are changing in real-time.

Sometimes it can feel like you are experiencing an all-out assault on who you are, who you aspire to be, and what you contribute to an organization. In many cases, because your role is evolving right before your eyes, you may not even know what it will look like when the dust settles. The good news is, just because the evolution of your current role is out of your control does not mean that where you are headed is out of your control. If you have done your homework and you know the characteristics of your ideal role and workplace, you have a clear target. Now you just need to determine what action(s) you need to take to get there.

What’s in it for me (WIIFM)

Many people feel helpless and consequently dis-empowered when experiencing major organizational change. However, the impact of any change on you, depends on you. In order to determine WIIFM, consider all aspects of your current role (the good, the bad, and the ugly). Then ask yourself the following 3 questions:

  1. How will the change impact my current role?
  2.  How will the change impact my future goals?
  3.  As I think about potential personal consequences, am I inspired to take action?

While you may never understand all of the desired business outcomes related to a specific change, the key to a successful outcome for you, depends on you taking action. Initially, this may just mean that you are inspired to pay more attention to thought leaders in your industry and ask more questions in order to better understand the reason(s) for the change. The action(s) that you choose to take are not as important as the fact that you choose to take action. If you are simply reacting to the changing environment and not being proactive on any level, don’t be surprised when you feel increasingly dis-empowered.

Thriving during Organizational Change

Organizational change encompasses a variety of interactions: new ways of collaborating with colleagues, adoption of new technology systems, modification of job descriptions, introduction of new products or services, as well as expansion to new markets. Your personal experience of organizational change can range from: frightening, exciting, overwhelming, and inspiring. Initially, you may feel helpless and convinced that your voice is not important, but that simply is not true.
Your personal experience of a change is what matters most in organizational change. You may have had very little to do with the decision to make the change, but the decision you make about your role in the change is critical, for both you and the organization. Whether you make a conscious or unconscious decision, you contribute to the success or failure of change. We’ve all heard: “it’s not personal, it’s business.” If business is not personal, I don’t know what is!

Who cares about course completion?

In his blog, Courses or Learning Episodes, Steve Wheeler, provided much food for thought. The instructional design course that I facilitate online does not have as a goal course completion by all students. The goal is simply to provide a source of just in time learning experiences presented in a context that encourages learners to recognize the importance of remaining conscious of overarching goals; goals that far transcend any specific subject.
An essential question is how do we design learning experiences with the ultimate goal of progressively requiring less and less directed learning or structure from course facilitators? I think most teachers enter the field with the goal of helping students to discover and strengthen their voice by encouraging them to exercise their voice. However, along the way that goal becomes greatly over shadowed as we attempt to adhere to program and course guidelines that unnaturally restrict learning experiences by discipline or subject as opposed to teaching holistically. Of course teaching holistically demands collaboration and transparency, 2 things that are often challenging to implement regardless of the learning environment.
I think conversations related to education reform efforts should be more about identifying and exploiting the unique value different learning environments provide which support the design of authentic learning experiences. Thankfully, the options for how we present lessons is virtually endless. However, if the students are not engaged and actively interacting with the course materials; they are just that: course materials. Learning can only be exhibited as a result of the interaction.