Self-Directed Learning

Scholars optimize their personal learning environment (PLE) to enable the accomplishment of specific goals which have been outlined by the scholar and her mentors in the scholar’s  personal learning plan (PLP). This process empowers the scholar to cultivate a personal learning network (PLN) – these are people who surround the scholar as all participants are actively learning on their own terms, potentially providing feedback to one another, teaching each other things, or perhaps it is just a good friend who makes the scholar feel comfortable as they begin to transition into the world of intentionally self-directing their life.

Personal Learning Environment (PLE)

A personal learning environment generally consists of:

  1. web based platform(s) or perhaps a desktop application that can include both formal and informal learning “episodes” such as using Facebook to watch videos of your friend teach guitar lessons AND listen to NPR radio shows.
  2. Social networks should be able to cross institutional boundaries to make sure a person is not confining themselves within a solo. Learning how to bridge connections between institutions is crucial to our evolution. LinkedIn is an example of a cross-institutional social network.
  3. Personally managed web-space where you can syndicate your own content, share downloadable files with your peers and visitors, and continuously maintain a comprehensive resource knowledgebase of the learning episodes you have experienced. Evernote and a few other platforms offer this.

Personal learning environments are unique to a specific individual. Hence “personal”.

Are you paying attention to the way your personal learning environment is setup? We all have one whether we like it or not. If you are connected to the web and use the internet to consume any information whatsoever that means you have a personal learning environment. Whether you are benefiting or not from your PLE is yet to be discovered. It all depends on how you setup your personal learning environment.

A good place to start is to get together with some friends you think can teach you something. Perhaps it’s business advice, video editing skills, or how to open a bottle of wine. Ask your friend to start teaching you something using one of the components I mention above. Perhaps you get guitar lessons via Google Hangouts. Perhaps you get spanish lessons using Skype. Make an effort to intentionally use those networks of connectivity for learning. In some cases, once you get used to using the channels for something as powerful as learning new knowledge it becomes easier to ignore the device as it is no longer a toy. It becomes a tool.

People are in charge of their own personal learning environment and will surround themselves with specific types of social media, blogs, videos, and other new media. This self-directed approach to constructing a learning environment has a serious impact on the type of information a person consumes, the knowledge they acquire, and the people they develop relationships with.

Personal Learning Network (PLN)

Personal Learning Networks typically consists of mentors, mentees, teachers, peers and anyone else a person connects to with a specific intention of learning something.

Scholars learn to establish their PLN as a system to help them take ownership of their own learning.

Scholars are provided with continuous one-on-one support and on demand modules to learn how to set their own learning goals, how to curate and source proper content to achieve those goals, and basically how to become a lifelong self-directed learner. Youth and adults should learn how to cultivate these environments because we all must know how to learn the next set of new skills which are unknown today, but will be in high demand tomorrow.

Learning Management System (LMS)

Platform to take online courses such as Udemy, Coursera, Highbrow, Fedora, and iMakeSpace.

Virtual Learning Environment (VLE)

VLEs have been adopted by nearly all higher education institutions as a way to provide admin info such as course syllabi, self-assessment tools, communication via forums and/or email, and sometimes professors will drop in RSS feeds so the students will see most recent articles from specific websites.

This is by definition a virtual learning environment because of the nature of the media, however, this is not an effective method of learning for a number of reasons. There is friction between the student and the VLE because they only use it for the purpose of downloading a syllabus, taking a pesky exam, and posting mandatory forum comments. VLEs are not integrated into everyday lives of typical college students.

Universities have lost valuable time, money and resources building their own versions of Facebook and Gmail. When social media was becoming mainstream businesses scrambled to learn how to use it so they could leverage it for their businesses. Businesses who figured out the ins and outs of Facbeook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and search engine optimized blogging are generating serious revenue from the internet today.

Do you think businesses would have been as successful if they tried to build their own social network to compete with Facebook?

A passionate and skilled 18 year old self-directed learner may have more opportunities at her fingertips than the 4.0 honors student who is stifled by the confines of an outdated institution.

Below is a reading list where you can learn more about the topics I covered in this post.

Self-Directed Learning Reading List

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