Self-determined Learning: builds analyzing, evaluating, and creating skills.

Executive Summary

It is well acknowledged, that people are most likely to learn deeply when they are trying to solve problems or answer question they have come to regard as important or intriguing.

In a world, “where change is the only constant” – the learners who can survive and thrive are those who have the capability to effectively and creatively apply skills and competencies to new situations. in an ever-changing, complex world. 

Today Twitter  ranks 1st in the top 100 learning tools list, followed by You Tube and Google Search, compiled from votes of 2000 learning professional (from education and enterprises) world-wide.  This clearly demonstrates, that learners are relying more and more on social media and search engines to explore and find out more. Though going to the library, reading physical books and accessing ready made e-book or e-content, continues, it is the tools of the new age like social media and search engines, which are more popular amongst the learners.

Big shift in learner behavior. Learners want to be actively  involved in the learning process, by active co-construction of content and select, appropriate and implements learning solutions to meet their needs. Learning is becoming autonomous, goal based and learners themselves are responsible for identifying and creating their own learning paths.

Self-determined learning, also referred to as “heutagogy” as a learning approach is very relevant in this digital era driven by mobile technology, social media and search engines. In this approach of learning, emphasis is placed on development of learner capacity and capability with the goal of producing learner who are well-prepared for the complexities of today’s workplace.


“Heutagogy” applies a holistic approach to developing learner’s capability, with learning as an active and proactive process, and learners serving as “major agent for their own learning, which occurs as a result of personal experiences”. In this approach of learning, it is important that the learner acquires both competencies and capabilities.

When learners are competent, they demonstrate the acquisition of knowledge and skills; skills can be repeated and knowledge retrieved. When learners are capable, skills and knowledge can be reproduced in unfamiliar situations. Capability is then an extension of one’s own competence, and without competency there cannot be capability.

How mobile technologies enable Self-determined learning?

Social media, and other mobile technology based tools are helping to adopt Self-determined learning rapidly. Following are the 4 direct ways, in which the digital era technologies facilitate, the above learning approach –

Mobile learning platform: Mobile platforms inherently support collaboration, data and resource capturing and sharing and reflective practice. Use of mobile learning was found to increase learner – learner and learner – external interaction, as well as reflective practice.

Messaging platforms for e.g. Twitter: Student or learners who used messaging platform like Twitter or WhatsApp were found to be more actively engaged in their learning process and scored higher grades. The messaging platform boost student-student and student – instructor interaction, as well as promote active learning.

Learner generated content: Active use of social media in creating learner-generated content seems to contribute to development of skills of self-directed-ness. Development of learner-generated content, supports cognitive skill development, whereas passive use (consumption) is less effective in supporting development of these skills.

Virtual assistance: Mobile technology based digital learning platform, provides active learning activities built around scenarios, that learner works through in a process of self-discovery. These scenarios, built in machine based learning algorithms, are based on the past experiences and instructor’s knowledge, will identify flaws in the learners thought process, forcing the learner to evaluate and re-evaluate his or her thinking in a certain way.

Implications of Self – directed learning.

Industry looks for candidates with basic knowledge and skills to perform their job.  It is important for learners or students to move from a check-box approach to obtaining good grades to a mastery based approach, which is more aligned with workplace demands. In education system, the focus is on handing in something to be graded on a certain date may count as completed task, (reminds me of the movie “3 idiots”), industry work environment expects several passes through a piece of work until perfection. While one may say, that behavior can be adapted easily, based on environment, industry reports that key reasons for not hiring students are their lack of transfer skills, lack of critical reflection on own performance and lack of soft skills. 

A World Bank study suggests that “higher education schools in India should seek to improve the skill set of graduates and shift the focus toward higher-order skills and creativity. Employers rated graduates relatively high on lower-order thinking skills (remembering, understanding) but low on higher-order thinking skills (analysing, evaluating, and creating).”

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) specifies three key competencies which can be imparted to enhance the employability skills: the ability to use a wide range of tools to interact constructively within the social context, the ability to engage with others in an increasingly interdependent world, the ability to take responsibility for managing one’s life, place it in the broader social context, and behave autonomously and responsibly. The need to think and act reflectively is central to all these competencies.

India Skills Report,2015, by Wheebox, reports that of all the students entering the job market across the country, hardly 1/3rd meet the criteria of the employment set by the employers. The severity of the situation is accentuated by many levels when the economy is looking up, new jobs are getting generated in e-commerce, energy, core engineering, retail, hospitality and banking; but there are not enough “skilled” people available. It is this gravity of the situation that has started various initiatives to combat this problem. In fact, the Government of India has adopted skill development as a national priority over the next 10 years.

Self-determined learning, is a small yet concrete step for learners and student to enhance analytical, evaluation and creative skills – driven by experiential learning and practice. Success is the result of perfection, hard work, learning from failures, loyalty and persistence (quote : Colln Powells). Perfection starts with doing simple things well. Start the journey of self-determined learning today!          

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