With workplace tech enabling modern organisations to shift closer to more autonomous methods of working [for example, working from home, remote workers, digital nomads], workplace L&D has required a similar evolution to exploit these opportunities created through technological advancements.
A topic we’ve been discussing at length recently, Self-Directed Learning [SDL] in the workplace has emerged as a response to both the changing demands of the working environment and needs of learners; fueled by the ever-expanding ocean of freely accessible content from which to learn in 2018.
Wait… What is Self-Directed Learning?
The Self-Directed Learning approach encourages the learner to take responsibility for their own learning journey; with the identification of learning needs, goals and supporting material/activities being determined by the learner.
The self-directed method of learning is just one example of how you can support your learners. The approach can include various other methods, including goal-based learning and problem-based learning.
Typically, the SDL method is a four step process:
- Assess readiness to learn
- Set learning goals
- Engage in the learning process
- Evaluate learning.
Within the workplace, this could look like: the learner setting a specific goal [e.g. developing social media marketing skills] and then, selecting the recommended content and activities available to them that they believe to be the most suitable in achieving this goal.
At the end of the goal, the learner can either choose to complete it if they feel they have achieved it or, they can keep it open, engaging with more material and completing more activities to develop their skill further.
Are You Facilitating a Culture of Self-Directed Learning?
The self-directed approach to learning has a whole host of benefits for the learner, yet the experience can be somewhat daunting for someone who is more familiar with compliance-based training that is more focused on directed learning, with facilitators mapping a path of content to work through and tests to follow.
If you’re unsure of whether your organisation is currently encouraging SDL as well as it could be, we’ve compiled a few questions below to help get you thinking.
Do you encourage learners to set goals?
Goal setting can be a really useful tool to help learners identify and plan their learning activities. Understandably, not all of your employees will know what their goals should be or, what learning activities they should complete in order to achieve them.
As an organisation, you may need to educate those less confident with independent learning on how to take charge of their learning journeys.
Have they set realistic goals that benefit not only the organisation but, their own professional development too? Do they have access to personalised content that focused upon their individual learning outcomes? Have you made them aware of other learning opportunities that might benefit them – i.e. conferences, events, on-the-job training?
The role best played by the organisation in this approach can be distilled into 3 points:
- Encourage your learners to be curious about their learning goals
- Allow them the freedom to embark upon their learning journey independently
- Offer support when appropriate.
Are you set up to support learning as part of the workday?
Workplace learning can often seem like a bit of a hassle. Pressures at work sometimes mean employees would rather focus on their actual work than waste time on learning activities.
For your learners to truly make the most of their learning opportunities, you need to make them aware of the importance you attach to workplace learning for professional development.
Work to create an environment where workplace learning is not merely viewed as a compliance obligation but, as a tool to fulfil personal career ambitions. Benefits of doing so include greater staff engagement and retention as they come to understand how their learning exists as advantage to them, not just the organisation.
Allow for experimentation, tolerate errors, even grant time away from the office for your learners to pursue learning activities.
Example: Tes Global, the world’s biggest online teaching community, first built innovative courses within our Stream LXP (formerly Curatr) platform that teachers could access freely through sign-up mechanisms with their school.
Bridging the gap between formal and informal learning, Tes Institute now offers CPD on-demand, as well as fully accredited, distance learning qualifications using the same system. Their learners now have the freedom to learn remotely, making it easier for them to fit workplace learning into their schedules.
Are you obtaining feedback from your employees?
There are many benefits to obtaining feedback from your learners regarding their experience with the content and activities you have provided. Analysing their interaction with the learning material will allow you to measure the impact each learning activity is having.
Through this, you are then able to make informed decisions about the future of your learning design, continuing to provide relevant and engaging material to your learners thus, ensuring they gain the most from the self-directed learning opportunity.
Also, by providing learners with the opportunity to give feedback, your learners will feel like they play a crucial part in the learning opportunities you offer. They will then identify value in the learning experience and realise the importance their learning journey has to you.
Do you encourage social interaction?
According to Social Learning Theory, there are four principles for how we learn through social contexts; attention, retention, reproduction and motivation.
Retention of learning material is dependent on context and environment. If you’re not already, promoting these social learning principles and the benefits for learners is something worth trying.
Through interaction, not only will your learners learn from the prepared content available to them in their course, they will also be learning from and sharing ideas with their colleagues and peers too.
Various methods of SDL, including problem-based learning, encourage social interaction and allow your learners to collaborate on learning activities, creating a combined knowledge across your workforce.
To achieve a self-directed learning culture in the workplace, you need to be putting your learners in the ‘driving seat’ so to speak.
By encouraging a ‘bottom-up’ approach to learning that requires vastly less organisational resource than traditional ‘top-down’ approaches, in which learning activities are dictated, not chosen, the learning your organisation provides becomes more accessible to learners.
By answering some key questions about the organisational learning culture you currently cultivate, we hope that you can begin to empower your workforce to identify and capture the skills to boost both their personal and your organisational growth.
Curious as to how other organisations are implementing the Self-Directed Learning approach? Take a look at some of our case studies. If you’d like some insight into the learning opportunities learners want available to them, our One Size Fits One post holds the answers.
Libby graduated from the University of Winchester in May 2018 with a degree in Media and Communication and soon after joined HT2 Labs as a Digital Communications Officer.
Following their acquisition in June 2019, Libby is now a Senior Marketing Executive at Learning Pool and with a keen interest in content marketing, Libby’s day-to-day involves blog writing, press releases, case studies and more!
Outside of work, Libby enjoys all things health and fitness related, including long walks and morning swims. Having spent 9-weeks travelling Central and South America before University, Libby is a keen traveller and you’ll often find her planning her next trip with her partner.