We know that continuous learning is integral to career development, fulfillment at work, and makes you more likely to stay in a job for longer. However, outside of the structure of the office environment, it can be hard to find the time and the motivation to complete learning programs, especially when you spend your days jumping from meeting to meeting. So how can you achieve your learning goals and professional growth when you’re short on time, working remotely or feeling demotivated? Self-paced learning might just be the solution.
What is self-paced learning?
Self-paced learning involves completing tasks at a speed customized to your personal level of mastery. You can move from one topic or segment to the next at your own pace, spend more time on the material you’re struggling with, skip topics that cover material you already know, or repeat topics as needed. Self-paced learning is designed on the premise that not everyone learns at the same pace, removing the pressure of having to keep up with other learners and allowing for more flexible learning paths that suit the preferences and schedule of the learner.
The challenge of self-paced learning is that it transfers responsibility from the instructor to learners. This is why it’s important to think carefully and plan before starting your self-paced learning journey. Here’s a closer look at the benefits of self-paced learning.
With self-paced learning, you can make workplace training programs work for you. Whether you’re an early bird or a night owl, you can choose to study when you focus well and for as long as you want to. Flexibility is increasingly a major factor of work-life balance, and self-paced learning aligns with the new models of hybrid and flexible working. Being able to customize your learning around your schedule creates a more seamless learning experience. Plus, the flexibility of online learning lets you slowly grasp concepts and make sure you’ve got full comprehension before moving forward. This ultimately leads to better learning outcomes.
With self-paced learning, the how and when is in your hands. You need to work out how much material you’re going to cover in a week, and when you’re going to learn it. Developing that intrinsic motivation to learn is an excellent life skill — you will start to attach meaning to your work, explore new topics, and persist in the face of learning challenges. Plus, you’ll enjoy a sense of pride in your own work and your newly acquired knowledge.
Self-paced learning is linked to improvement in memory performance and knowledge retention. Research finds that self-paced learners outperform those who spend exactly the same amount of time studying the same material. This is because self-paced learning allows learners to distribute their time in a way best suited to themselves and not to the group average.
What’s more, self-paced learning is linked to deep learning. Deep learning involves examining new facts and ideas critically, tying them into existing cognitive structures and making numerous links between ideas. It’s the opposite of surface learning, which involves accepting new ideas and facts at face value and storing them as isolated, unconnected, items. Rather than simply following an instructor, self-paced learning encourages the learner to understand the why of what they’re studying, which requires more critical thinking and engagement. Better understanding means better mastery — students who do deep learning tend to perform better.
Self-paced learning creates an inclusive learning environment where you’re accepted for the way in which you learn best. It celebrates the diversity of learning styles, giving you space to explore the style of learning that is most effective for you. Your whole team can be learning the same skill, with each person playing to their strengths to maximize their learning experience — one co-worker could learn the material primarily through visual means, where another could learn using lots of audio. Self-paced learning takes the process of learning into consideration, not just the results.
The link between self-paced learning and deep learning can help to foster an inclusive work culture. Deep learning is often social and can involve discussing topics which can bring you and your co-workers together, counteracting the disconnection of learning remotely and creating a work environment where everyone feels free to discuss and connect throughout their learning journey.
Adopting self-paced learning as you embark on a learning journey can be a game changer, giving you the flexibility you need and empowering you to reach your goals on your terms. It increases productivity and helps you connect with your co-workers. Learning from home doesn’t have to be a daunting prospect, in fact, it’s an opportunity to take your learning into your own hands. Who knows where self-paced learning will take you!