Why You Should Encourage Learner Autonomy

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Encourage Learner Autonomy With A Next-Generation Learning Platform

On the road to learning success there are many paths to get to a final destination. Modern learners have a sea of options available to them that were not around when the concept of learner autonomy was first being discussed by Plato and Socrates. The opportunities for learners to chart their own course has never been more exciting.

Learners now have a vast array of human knowledge constantly available to them at their fingertips. The trick is to organize that knowledge and distribute it to learners when they need it, or at least have it sorted in some way that allows the learner to feel they’re able to easily access the information they need, when they need it. Online learning platforms give learners access to curated content necessary to skill-up on topics important to their day-to-day tasks.  Learning platforms are also able to carry additional learning opportunities that exist outside of the scope of a learners “necessary” learning activity.

What is Learner Autonomy?

Learning autonomy flips the traditional model teacher/learner relationship on its head. Traditional learning focuses on a teacher driven classroom where the student follows the learning path. With learner autonomy, the traditional teacher is removed from the equation and it is up to the student to drive their own learning experience. It is more about a learner’s ability to take charge of their own learning. As opposed to being reliant on the teacher, the student takes responsibility for their own trajectory.

There are plenty of learning opportunities available to a modern learner through their learning platform and beyond on the wider web. It is important as a learning and development professional to carefully consider the roadmap and necessary touchpoints of information that you are setting out within learning modules. While encouraging learner autonomy can increase engagement, L&D admins need to ensure that the engagement is focused on the right content.

A traditional teacher is removed in the context of learner autonomy and the focal point  is placed on the learner, but that doesn’t mean that there is no teacher. There is still an administrator in place to ensure that students are able to access and find the necessary information and maintains a learning environment that supports the development of the learner and their autonomy to seek out the content they want. Additionally, the tools L&D admins use help to provide the direction to learners that would typically be associated with a teacher in a classroom using tools like a syllabus.

Within a corporate learning environment, increasing learner engagement with learning materials alone can be a struggle. Placing an importance on autonomous learning can help to move that need by shifting the mindset of your learners.

Ultimately, learner autonomy means giving the learner a chance to take charge of their own development.

The Importance of Learner Autonomy

The autonomy of your learners to chart their own course is an invaluable asset when setting out a learning strategy. Autonomy in a lot of ways allows for the expression of creativity, and creativity can be pivotal to success. By providing your learners with the chance to make their own path, you are directly empowering the decisions they make and allowing them to creatively embark on their own learning adventure. Creativity also goes hand-in-hand with curiosity and forms the bedrock of what makes individuals hungry to learn. As said by the writer William Arthur Ward, “curiosity is the wick of the candle of learning.”

Consider the adult learning theory of Malcolm Knowles. According the theory, there are 6 key principles that are critical to educational impact.

  1. Learners need to know why, what and how
  2. Learners want to be autonomous and self-directing
  3. Learners’ prior experience is an important consideration
  4. Readiness depends on the learner’s needs
  5. Orientation to learning tends to be problem-centred and contextual
  6. Motivation to learn is an intrinsic value, with personal payoff.

The principles are intended to spark the creativity of the learners, but more importantly they are intended to ensure that the learning method used ultimately benefits the learner. Through autonomous learning, you are providing the framework to allow your learners to be self-directed. Importantly however, you can also  effectively allow your learners to have an autonomous experience while also ensuring that they are spending their time learning the information necessary for organizational success.

This strategy also makes the learner the decision-maker when it comes to what they need to learn and how. Additionally, if your learning platform is set up in such a way that it provides streamlined access to important information that helps learners solve day-to-day problems, you will ensure that the orientation of your learning remains problem-oriented. That problem-orientation will derive mainly from the learner who has sought out the information themselves and therefore provided their own context as to why they are taking the course and utilizing the learning materials.

How to Promote Learner Autonomy

Promoting learner autonomy within your learning platform revolves primarily around promoting a sense of ownership. If an individual feels empowered to learn and understands that it is to their benefit to continue learning, then they will be inclined to do so. In order for a learner to take charge of their own learning, or have a desire to do so, a learning strategy must instill a sense of ownership within the learner. Without that ownership, a learner is highly unlikely to care enough to pursue learning on their own, regardless of how easily accessible their learning material is.

Take the concept of learning back to how we learn as children when we are naturally tuned to learning informally, or through our own direction. In our formative years, it is informal learning in new environments that keeps us revved and mentally stimulated, often without even realizing it.Taking that same approach, by providing courses, videos or learning materials that can be accessed by learners at any time but without formal instruction allow for learners to go at the own pace when it is useful for them.

Ways in Which an E-learning Platform Can Encourage Learner Autonomy

L&D admins professionals can leverage their learning platform to encourage and foster autonomous learning within an organization by:

  • Making Learning Available:This is foundationally the purpose in many ways of a learning management system (LMS). It is important that learning materials be made available to learners whenever and wherever they need or want to access the content.
  • Making Material Relevant: Setting up your learning platform to deliver engineering courses to your marketing department likely won’t serve the right purpose. Instead, ensure that your learning platform is efficiently organized to provide courses and content that speaks not only to an individual’s role but to specific issues and needs that might arise within a given position. Docebo’s Marketplace, including our recent integration with LinkedIn Learn helps learners to dig into a vast range of learning opportunities.
  • Entertaining Content Wins: While not all course material can be “exciting”, it’s important to try to create a content engagement experience that is simply more than flipping through a slide deck. Increasingly, video has played a large role in its ability to  increase learner stimulation. Providing social learning opportunities as well where the content can be discussed or shared with others can help to provide a sense of entertainment.
  • Employing a Flexible and Un-Rigid Structure: For learners to be autonomous, they need to be able to learn at their own pace on their own schedule. Administrators can encourage learner to take the time necessary to learn while also respecting the busy work days we all have.
  • Powering User-Generated Content: You likely have content experts within our organization, or after using a learning platform throughout a career, your employees might become the experts. Allow your learners to put their learning into practice not only on the job, but also by creating courses to be distributed throughout their team, department or company.
  • Making It Easy To Use: Perhaps most importantly, to encourage learner autonomy, a learning platform needs to be easy to use and be user intuitive. If a user cannot easily navigate the platform, they likely won’t go out of their way to find courses beyond those directly assigned to them with a specific purpose.

Learner autonomy can enhance a learning strategy and move the engagement needle. Docebo provides the ease of use, tools and autonomous experience that learner crave, while also providing learning and development professionals with the control necessary to ensure they’re able to effectively curate, organize and track the performance of their employees.

Fill your employees sails with incredible content and give them the freedom to chart their own course.