‘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.

Modeling as an Instructional Strategy

As my organization transitions to a new learning management system (Desire2Learn), I keep trying to figure out ways to help acclimate the faculty I support to the new platform. The more I can model the functionality of various features in the section designated for discipline resources, the more opportunities the faculty will have to experience the added value, rather than be “sold” on the added value.