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What is self-paced learning?
Self-paced learning is a way of teaching that lets the student go at their own speed, as fast or as slow as they want. They don’t need to absorb everything in one sitting, and can come back to the material as often as they need to.
Although self-paced learning sort of existed in the past - you could buy a self-learning book or listen to recorded lessons - it’s really come into its own with the rise of e-learning. E-learning, especially through pre-written or pre-recorded course content, lets learners watch and engage with learning material at their own pace, and instructional designers have a ton of great digital tools at their disposal to make sure that the material sticks–from responsive quizzes to flashcards on your phone.
Advantages of self-paced learning
Self-paced learning has a lot of advantages. One of the biggest is accessibility; anyone with access to a self-paced course can learn as they’re able. If a single dad or working mom is trying to learn something in their spare time, they could make it happen. And the ability to learn even a little bit each day adds up over time.
But another factor of accessibility is the fact that not everyone learns the same. Some learners get left behind in traditional classrooms or synchronous learning. This happens for different reasons that could be anything from disability to learning styles. That’s why “going at their own pace” isn’t just a question of convenience; it can be a question of accessibility and inclusion, and it opens up education for those who might not otherwise be able to benefit from it.
Some scientific research shows the benefits of self-paced learning too. Self-paced learners have higher retention and those who can direct themselves retain lifelong learning skills. Even in a traditional classroom, since not all students learn at the same pace, self-paced learning can allow those who are quicker to move forward and those who need more work on an area to stay with it until they’re done.
Disadvantages of self-paced learning
There are some disadvantages of self-paced learning. In order for it to work well, people have to be self-directed. That’s why it can be a better option for adults who want to learn than for, say, high-school kids who might not work as well autonomously.
People also learn differently, and some benefit from the presence of an instructor or engagement with other students. Some people may give up without the encouragement and accountability of fellow learners, especially on some online course platforms or MOOCs where nobody knows if you’re doing the work.
The cool thing about modern learning platforms is that you don’t need to choose either/or. If you run a Mighty Network, you have the option to create a course that is both self-paced and can include live components, workshops, discussions, and more!
Examples of self-paced learning
- A high school program that allows students to study math at their own pace, mixing online instruction with culminating exams
- An adult learner who takes a data science course online to upskill and try to find a new job
- A Mighty Networks Host records a course live, but then makes it available for all new and existing members to do at their own pace
- A manager takes a course in conflict resolution on LinkedIn Learning.