As educators, we hope that learners will continue their learning beyond the classroom. Independent learning can provide some of the most valuable educational experiences available, helping to develop high-level organizational and analytical skills. But independent learning doesn’t come naturally for everybody, and can be especially difficult for those who prefer clear direction and frequent oversight. So how can educators provide an independent learning framework that works for everyone?
The Difference Between Traditional and Independent Learning
1. Guidance vs Direction
Independent learning’s biggest departure from traditional teaching is that educators aim to guide rather than direct their students. This means less talking, less instruction, and less explanation. Instead, educators provide all the necessary information a student might need — an outline, rubric, appropriate examples and supplements — which are often presented in a coursebook or syllabus overview. From there, independent learning is about encouraging learners to explore topics on their own, using your information as their guide.
A consequence of guiding rather than directing is that learners must manage their own progress. This requires a positive and trusting relationship between educators and learners. Transferring the responsibility for making progress onto the student can be daunting for some, so support is needed as students learn to motivate themselves. Studies have shown that the most successful independent learners are those most able to effectively delay gratification.
3. Transferable Skills
Independent learning does more than provide students with knowledge of their subject matter. The process of learning independently also teaches a variety of transferable skills. These include the ability to adapt to workplace changes, a better understanding of how to self-motivate, and improved mental resilience, all of which may be seen as goals in themselves.
The Benefits of Independent Learning
1. Short Term
Given that independent learning asks more of students than traditional teaching styles, the benefits should outweigh the extra effort. Immediate advantages of independent learning include giving students a sense of self-confidence and capableness. When students are made to feel responsible for their own studies, they often become more inclined to take initiative in their learning.
2. Long Term
The true benefits of independent learning can be seen over the course of a student’s education and into their professional lives. Because this learning style develops the ability to manage your own work, your time, and the resources you need to complete a task, independent learning students are naturals in a workplace environment.
Independent Learning With Your LMS
Striking the right balance between giving enough guidance and letting students explore subjects can be difficult. An eLearning syllabus, delivered through a LMS, provides the best solution for educators. Using an LMS, students are given all the information and guidance they need, while teachers are able to closely monitor individual progress. Take a look at these two example lesson plans, to see how Moodle combines freedom for students with detailed oversight.
Independent Learning Lesson Plan 1: Research Project
1. Use Moodle’s built-in media tools to introduce the class to the topic. Embed video, audio, animation and images into your presentation. This provides learners with all the information they need in a stimulating way, maintaining engagement.
2. Test student’s understanding of your topic presentation through Moodle’s gamification features and plugins. Glossary terms and quiz questions allow educators to gain insights into class progress without setting formal tests.
3. Now set the research project assignment, using clear expectations, success criteria, deadlines and examples of quality work. Emphasize that students are responsible for managing their own time. Once students have begun the assignment, track their work through by analyzing the learning data your LMS collects using a tool like Zoola Analytics to understand exactly how their learning is progressing.
Independent Learning Lesson Plan 2: Group Presentation
1. Split the class into groups and introduce the topics for presentation. Encourage students to assign clear roles and tasks within their groups. Now set the presentation assignment, ensuring that all students are aware of presentation requirements and marking criteria.
2. Point students towards Moodle’s video conferencing toolsto help plan and practice their presentations. The LMS allows students to work together through sharing slides, whiteboards, audio, video, chat and desktops. Students can even record their presentations to help rehearse.
3. After the presentations, encourage students to continue developing their independent learning skills through Moodle’s collaborative learning tools. Set discussion tasks, where students are required to post responses and give feedback to the presentations through an online forum.
Disclaimer: This article was contributed by guest blogger Joe Hitchcock. Joe is a content writer from Vancouver BC, interested in culture, education and fiction. The views and opinions expressed belong to the guest blogger alone, and do not necessarily reflect the official policies or opinions of Lambda Solutions.