The Evolution of Self-Directed Learning

Guest Contributorby Jane Farquhar | Posted | Learning

The Evolution of Self-Directed Learning

A teacher friend of mine recounted a story of an education conference he attended, where each of the attendees was given a "Learn to Juggle" kit with three bean bags and a step-by-step instruction book. The audience of over 500 attendees was given 20 minutes to see how far they could get in acquiring a brand new skill.

At the end of the twenty minutes, the conference panel observed that the audience fell into one of three categories. The first group picked up the bean bags and just did it – either they already knew how to juggle, or the skill came naturally to them.

The second group opened up the instruction book and, step by step, meticulously followed the instructions. Chances are, they would acquire the skill if they had more time to master the steps.

The third group, after a few minutes of trying, got frustrated with the whole exercise, sat down on their chairs and disengaged completely.

That conference took place in the mid-80s when learning was mostly instructor-led. At that point in time, self-directed learning meant that you went to the library, found a book on a topic and acquired the knowledge page-by-page. That meant that the frustrated group of those learners would never have had the opportunity to master that skill, and it had nothing to do with the fact that they didn't want to learn that skill. Rather, they weren't learning the way they learned best.

Imagine the negative impact on your organization if 1/3 of your employees were not acquiring the core knowledge and skills needed for them to be successful in their jobs?

How things have changed

Fast forward 40 years. You can imagine that the juggling exercise would have gone very differently. Chances are, the group of disengaged learners would have had their heads buried in their smartphones, Googling "learn to juggle" and getting access to multiple options to acquire that skill. They would have been confident, engaged, and empowered.

Although there has been significant advancement in learning over the past 40 years, we're still not where we need to be. Why are so many organizations reluctant to reconcile traditional styles with new, personalized and more self-directed models? The learning experience matters. And when you get the experience right, employees are engaged and motivated to do their best work for organizations.

A new way to learn at work

This week, Saba announced a brand new, "just-for-me" learning experience. Saba me:time delivers on the promise of a personalized, self-directed learning experience so that none of your learners are left behind. Saba me:time converges the power of Saba's learning capabilities with a deep understanding of the way your people want to engage, grow and connect in the modern world of work. Connecting these dots is critical to organizational outcomes, including internal talent mobility, re-skilling and up-skilling, and talent retention.

I encourage you to think about your organization's learning culture and what you are doing to cultivate an experience that is inclusive of all your employees. Because if you are stuck in the past, it's quite possible that those "frustrated jugglers" are now working somewhere else.

The Definitive Handbook for Creating Exceptional Experiences at Work

Arm yourself with 101 effective talent experience strategies from industry experts.


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Cover of the book
Cover of the book

The Definitive Handbook for Creating Exceptional Experiences at Work

Arm yourself with 101 effective talent experience strategies from industry experts.


Download Now


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