Self-directed learning can include self-paced learning, independent learning, individualized learning and self-instruction. Whatever terminology is used, self-directed learning places the responsibility for learning directly on the learner. Knowles believes there is convincing evidence that people who take the initiative in learning (proactive learners) learn more things, and learn better, than do people who sit at the feet of teachers passively waiting to be taught (reactive learners). He goes on to say: They enter into learning more purposefully and with greater motivation. They also tend to retain and make use of what they learn better and longer than do the reactive learners. Kemp, Morrison and Ross suggest that in many learning situations learners participating in self-paced learning programs work harder, learn more, and retain more of what is learned. These and other advocates seem to agree that the independent learner is one who is more involved and active within the learning process.
Computer-mediated learning via the Internet, by its very nature, supports the self-directed learner in pursuing individualized, self-paced learning activities. The learner, working at a computer at a convenient time and pace, is able to search and utilize the vast archive and database resources of the Internet and numerous online library catalogs and document delivery systems to research nearly any topic imaginable. He/she can visit libraries, museums and various institutes world wide, talk to professionals, access the latest research, and read electronic newspapers and peer reviewed scholarly electronic journals. He/she can write collaboratively with peers and even publish written and multimedia products on web pages. The self-directed learning possibilities of computer mediated online communication would seem limited only by the learner him/herself.
This text has been adapted from Creating a Powerful Online Course through the Use of Multiple Instructional Strategies