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How To Succeed With Self-Directed Study

written byErickson Coaching Internationalon 08/04/2015

In the recent Oscar-winning blockbuster, the Imitation Game, we see the father of the modern computer age get his unlikely start as a young boy. Bored in a formal classroom structure that seems to suck all the fun out of learning, he finds solace with his friend in the arcane world of codes and ciphers. Learning by doing, they create their own sophisticated coded language that only they can understand. Ultimately, this instance of self-directed study has literally world-changing consequences, as Alan Turing helps the Allies win the Second World War and ushers in a new technological era.

Today, self-directed learning in the flipped classroom isn’t just for certified geniuses. Very belatedly, we’ve noticed that it really works for everyone. As the acclaimed thought leader Sean Bengry noted in a recent TED talk, The Revolution of Self-Directed Learning: “We are the catalyst for our own knowledge gathering.” Most learning experiences come from outside of a formal learning environment, through webinars, watching videos, email exchanges, or other ‘on-the-job’ training. For many of us, it’s just a quicker, easier way to get the information we need, as we need it.

That said, the flipped classroom can take some getting used to for those who have always thrived in a highly structured classroom. Here’s some suggestions on how to succeed:

Keep Your Eye on the End Goal. Self-directed study isn’t about studying only what you want to study. Your course has certain requirements and learning milestones you need to reach in order to pass. Erickson’s new gamified program shows how you earn badges along the way, encouraging you to keep going!

The flipped classroom gives you the responsibility to study all of the subject matter in a way that works best for you. However you learn your subject, you will ultimately have to prove what you’ve learned in order to pass the course.

Manage Your Time Wisely. “I didn’t realize how much work this was going to be” is a common complaint for those who aren’t used to self-directed study. If you’re working, taking care of family or have other commitments while you’re back in school, it’s absolutely critical to get this right. Back when you were in high school, you may have used this rule of thumb: two hours of study or practice for every one hour spent in the classroom. But what happens when you’re not in the classroom much, or at all?

This is where your personal calendar comes in. Set a realistic schedule and stick to it, with regular reminder notifications if needed.

Reward Yourself. “Knowledge is its own reward.” We’ve all heard that before, but as you achieve milestones and earn badges on your way to the end of the course, give yourself extra little incentives to keep going. Get away from your studies for an afternoon and hit the ski hills. Have that slice of cheesecake. Binge-watch that half-season of your favorite show on Netflix that you’ve been avoiding. Do what you need to do to stay positive.

Remind Yourself Why You’re Learning. All of us can think of something we learned when we were young that ‘we just never use in the real world’. That’s not going to be the case with what you’re learning in your self-directed course, though. You chose this. You decided you needed to know something, not just to have a piece of paper framed on your wall. Whatever you’re learning is going to change your life – and maybe, just maybe – it will change the world, too.

Do you have tips to help your fellow learners on their self-directed path? Leave a comment!