There are few safe havens remaining for those who assume that the need for learning ends at the schoolhouse door. In addition to contributing to the need for life-long learning, technology can also provide support for learners in ways that ten years ago were unimaginable. Access to knowledge resources, opportunities for collaboration, on-line courses and just-in-time learning environments have caused an exponential growth in the resources that are available to support self-directed learning. For the learner who has internalized the processes that support self-directed learning, this profusion of resources makes learning more readily available today than at any time in history.
Life in a global, networked, and digital society requires students to develop digital fluency across a broad range of digital tools, devices, software, web resources and applications, along with a deep understanding of the purpose and functionality of each. The breadth and depth of this digital set of competencies will develop over time, with students slowly building mastery in the use and application of each genre of digital competency, while continuously expanding that set of digital competencies with emerging technologies.
When we layer self-direction with today’s digital learning tools, we see connections and opportunities to support and encourage self-direction when teaching virtually or from a distance. The following are strategies that are specific to developing self-direction in virtual learning environments.
- Social Reinforcement (morning messages, balance of control and responsibility, individual responsibility and collective contribution)
- Sustained Motivation (strategic, surface, deep learning)
- Progress monitoring (pre-assess, check for understanding, demonstrations of understanding)
- Active Engagement (Social emotional, cognitive, behavioral) – active questioning, personal reflection, continuous feedback, goal setting (and monitoring)
- Help seeking environment (flexibility for students who are off site, family needs and schedules, multiple breakout rooms or virtual meeting spaces etc.)
- Choice/Voice/Agency (establishing individual priorities, flexibility)
- Continuous Feedback and Evaluation of Design/Facilitation Expectations for community of learning support (peer-to-peer, facilitator to student)
- Inclusion of self-direction strategies (self-management, self-monitoring, and motivation)
- Personalized learning (balance of content, process, and product)