Learning to learn on your own


24 Jan Learning to learn on your own

An eLearning approach to learning is all about independent instruction. And while eLearning has become the catch-all bucket for all self-guided learning, the truth is when you remove the technology aspects, what you are really talking about is autonomous instruction, practice and assessment. This means providing an environment where the learner may engage in instruction, independent of an instructor or other learners.

This is not easy.

Creating Independent instruction is hard

Independent instruction is not new and has been performed with learner guides and workbooks for generations. However, even with the use of modern technologies, it poses one of the biggest challenges for instructional designers: How can you be sure the instruction you have designed, and the delivery method chosen for independent instruction is truly accomplishing your goals?

Judging the acquisition of some new skills is easy to assess, like online quizzes for math or foreign language learning. But keep in mind even with those topics, if your learners were in the classroom their teacher would likely see them struggling and provide some on-the-spot feedback and extra practice. This is to ensure the learner has reached competency in the current level before moving on to the next. To be effective, your independent instruction should do the same. Again, not easy without sophisticated branching algorithms and additional supportive content.

Having completed my graduate work at Florida State University, I am well versed in the Dick & Carey Instructional Systems Design model and how important it is to understand your learners and the context in which they will undergo the instruction. And while employing eLearning technologies – videos, animations, interactivity, gaming, computer-based assessments and user management through Learning Management Systems help, they are not a guarantee that you are going to be successful. And for some learners, the technology just gets in the way.

Not better or worse, just different

At Intracon, we are frequently asked to “convert” classroom instruction to eLearning. When confronted with this request, instructional designers need first ask themselves, “What’s different?” as changing the context of the learning delivery has a profound impact on the design of the instruction. What was great in the classroom with an instructor and peer-to-peer interaction now becomes an independent experience. This means that some tools that have been used effectively in the classroom will just not work in the context of eLearning. We must rethink how to engage the learner to self-direct their path through the instruction and not depend on an instructor or peer-pressure to “keep them on their toes.”

We have a lot of tools at our disposal, of course. For instance, if I am tasked with converting training on a new sales methodology or how to handle angry customers, I can certainly create engaging eLearning, but we must all understand that it will be different. And often neglected in eLearning is the importance of practice.

Practice makes perfect

Cliché, of course, but it does make sense. Practicing your intellectual skills learning is just as important as practicing psychomotor skills.  Just because you passed the module self-check and the exit assessment, doesn’t mean you are an expert. Instructional designers need to remember this and perhaps utilize role playing (online or face to face) or ongoing self and manager assessment tools.

While not easy, it is achievable

There are so many advantages to eLearning! From round-the-clock accessibility to reducing the carbon footprint as people don’t need to travel long distances to attend classes. Instructional designers (and their clients) need to realize that independent instruction is radically different from the classroom. And while it’s not easy, they should embrace those differences by focusing on new ways to deliver their learning, employ creative ways to provide learners with practice and meaningful assessments to ensure skill acquisition.


For more information please contact us. At Intracon Spain we are experts in the creation, design, development and evaluation of E-learning training programmes.


Bucky Wall
Head of Learning 

Intracon Spain

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