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Blog: The benefits of self-paced learning in enterprise

More and more businesses are becoming savvy to the individual talents of their employees, and realising that, in a digital age, trust is key. Working from home and flexible working hours mean employees garner the trust of their organisation in self-regulated environments.

When training is required, though, it can be a difficult choice, as a business owner, whether to opt for inhouse training delivered by an expert, or opt for self-paced learning directed by your staff themselves.

The myths and assumptions which surround both, in terms of their efficiency, can seem like a quagmire to wade through in order to find out the hard facts – which will work better for your company and its employees?

In this article, we explore the hard-and-fast truths of self-paced learning, and explore the benefits and drawbacks for choosing this education method over trainer-delivered classroom/virtual training.

What is self-paced learning?

Instead of hiring an expert to come in and deliver ‘classroom’-style lessons or lectures to your workforce, self-paced learning relies on their ability to self-motivate and complete this learning by themselves. The student thus controls the pace, and the timing, of their learning. Both the teachers and the learners, in this case, are given much more flexibility to learn (and teach) in a way that suits them.

The move towards self-paced learning

A one-day annual training session is no longer enough to keep your staff up-to-date with industry evolution. Since the dawning of the Internet Age and the sheer amount of shareable, international information at any browser’s fingertips, the crucial information in your field is likely to be changing almost constantly. Industry knowledge has become highly perishable – one year out and you are likely to feel completely out of your depth.

As today’s organisations are often international, large and constantly changing, it can be difficult to schedule training that suits a broad range of geographically and academically-dispersed staff. Trusting the learner to curate their learning experience can thus be the best, and for some, the only option.

The drawbacks

Self-paced learning relies on the design and execution of the training/learning systems in a way that an interactive, classroom-based environment doesn’t so much. It is also important to consider, realistically, what can and cannot be done within your students’ constraints.

Self-paced learning is also heavily reliant on the students. Most are used to a face-to-face learning environment, so the freedoms of a self-paced learning structure can be a hurdle for some, as they lack that immediate support they may be used to.

Key advantages:

  • Power to the student. Leaving control of their learning in their hands can be great motivation, and allow a student to learn actively in a way (and at a pace) which best suits them.
  • Learners can learn as and when needed, without cross-company disruption for big, classroom-style training days. This also frequently reduces training costs.
  • It allows for quick learning of both permanent and evolving content; most companies have some basic training content to deliver, which self-paced learning is the perfect medium for, but this individual learning style also allows those who need to keep up-to-date with the latest developments to adopt knowledge quickly and effectively.

Key disadvantages:

  • Some will struggle to self-motivate and thus learn effectively, procrastinating if strict deadlines aren’t set.
  • Over-optimism about cost savings can lead to under-provision of necessary resources and crucial support.
  • The training system must be well and considerately designed to allow the student to best profit from the experience.

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