The power of self-directed learning

Do-it-yourself learning

The idea of orchestrating your own learning, selecting your own mentors, organizing your own conferences and workshops, and pursuing just-in-time learning has taken off around the globe. Emerging web technologies connect learners with content and each other in ways never before possible. We are learning outside classrooms and workplaces through smartphones, tablets, and various mobile devices and through social networking sites such as blogs, Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, Google+, Periscope,and #Slack—the list grows longer every day.

With so many choices, the big question is how will you direct your own learning?

Increased responsibility equals increased engagement

For many students, the opportunity to take more responsibility for their learning translates into more engaged learning. At Powerful Learning Practice we began offering self directed professional learning within our year long cohorts where teams of educators, guided by coaches, developed self directed learning paths and outcomes.

At first the teams struggled with the self directed aspect of the learning. They kept waiting to be told specifically what to do and what to learn.They resisted our nudging to “trust the process”. But over the course of the year as learners took more responsibility for determining where their most passionate interests were, self directed learning became easier and easier and more productive. And an interesting thing happened, as learners started chasing their passion and organizing their own learning challenges- they began sharing more about what they were learning.

Rather than learning being something of which learners had no ownership and that which was being “done” to them, it became a fascinating collaborative experience of collective intelligence building and co-construction of knowledge.

Flexibility is powerful (and a little scary)

Last year someone said to me, “You know, this type of learning is powerful but is there any way we can engage with the learning in smaller increments less than a whole year? It’s like we have to “marry” PLP and we’d like to just “date” you.” After chuckling we gave that idea some serious thought and then launched our self-paced e-learning courses and course bundles.

Thinking through the design, we wanted something that would provide convenience in relation to study location, time, course duration, and learning pace. We also wanted courses that would be less expensive than our instructor led options while making sure that we kept the value and deep learning provided in our other learning experiences.

A typical self-paced course

Self-directed learningOur self-paced courses have embedded instructor videos to help explain the content and serve as pathmarkers throughout the course. There are a variety of learning resources with activities designed to deepen the learning experience. Each course has an application piece that enables the learner to create an artifact or use something they learned in their classroom or workspace. Quizzes or check-ins for each module ensure that learners are reviewing the course content and threaded discussions allow for easy communication between students taking the course and with the instructor.

The best part is the self-directed aspect to the learning which can be done anytime and anywhere. The courses take about 3-5 hours to complete and there is a certificate of completion and graduate credit available for each one.

They can be purchased individually for less than $30 per course or as a customized bundle of six at a discount. Some teams are buying the courses and going through them together as part of a workshop and a few districts have used courses like our Digital Citizenship course as a baseline for all teachers and leaders to take as a means of developing a common understanding around digital change.

Take your learning into your own hands. Start browsing our online courses now!

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During a 25-year education career, Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach has been a classroom teacher, technology coach, charter school principal, district administrator, university instructor and digital learning consultant. Sheryl is the co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Powerful Learning Practice, where she works with schools and districts from around the world to re-envision their learning cultures and communities through the Connected Learner Experience and other e-learning opportunities. She is the author (with Lani Ritter Hall) of The Connected Educator: Learning and Leading in a Digital Age (Solution Tree, 2012) and serves on the ISTE Board of Directors.
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