Is Self-Learning a Skill?

Internet adoption across the world has continued to increase, something that has led to a skill gap. While traditional class-based learning is still appreciated, there’s been a need to upgrade and acquire new skills to meet the demand and pressure of the evolving world. Does it include self-learning?

Self-learning is an acquired skill that anyone can acquire. Developing lifelong self-learning skills is an effective way to acquire knowledge and stay ahead of the rest. You’ll realize those self-taught people have some things in common, like time management and discipline.

Read on to learn more about what self-learning is, the importance of self-learning, and how to acquire this beneficial skill.

What Exactly Is Self-Learning?

One-dimensional learning no longer works in the era of digitization. Although going to school and attending lecturers was critical back in the day, there’s a need for self-learning to acquire other new skills when you want. 

Self-learning is the art of acquiring knowledge using a variety of tools that are available to you. It’s something that requires your initiative without any prompts or guidance. You carry out research and learn from the materials you have around. The interesting part is that you could be gathering new information without realizing it. 

Self-learning is a learning method in which you can control the amount of content you consume and determine how long it will take to learn the new information. With time, you can process the learning material by yourself, referred to as knowledge retention. Self-learning is different from other learning methods as you get to control the time you want to learn and choose what you need to learn.

Examples of Self-Learning

For example, suppose you’re finding it challenging to study mathematics. In that case, you can decide to use your free time to research the internet on the mathematical concepts that are an issue for you.  

That means you’ll need to take a self-learning initiative, study the chapters, and complete the exercises at your own pace and at the time that’s convenient for you. You can also opt to watch video tutorials on how to calculate specific sums or on how to apply a given formula. 

Learning at your own pace not only applies to students, but it also applies to work.

A good example of work is when you are starting a new job. You are required to learn new processes, comply with the set procedures, understand the product or service, and master the various tools required to get the job done effectively. That’s because you are expected to be operative and onward within a short period of time. 

You could find the processes different from what you are used to in your previous job. Sometimes getting up to speed and being fully operative in a short time can be challenging. Fortunately, you can solve this through self-learning. Most companies and organizations utilize self-paced e-learning solutions to handle employee training. 

What Makes Self-Learning Different From Traditional Learning

Self-learning eliminates the management by others as it’s self-directed. That’s because you’re the one who needs to determine your learning needs and come up with a plan on how to achieve your individual goals. 

Another difference is in the initiative. You are required to take initiative and study by yourself as opposed to a classroom setup where the teacher may direct you on what to study and  advice on how to improve on your weak areas. 

Self-learning happens at a flexible pace as you get to decide on what time to study and where to study. However, with traditional learning, you have to go with the imposed pace as the teacher gets to decide what you need to learn and the time you need to be in class, which reduces your flexibility. 

Unlike traditional learning that offers face-to-face communication and allows social interaction, self-learning takes another form of interaction.  Interaction in self-learning can be through online discussion forums and video chats. 

With the internet evolving daily, learners can acquire skills in different ways. The best thing about self-learning is that you become more self-disciplined, motivated, independent, persistent, goal-oriented, and self-confident. 

The challenge of self-learning is that you won’t have external validation for assessment or content. That’s because you are in charge of every aspect of learning. You get to decide what to learn, the methods to use, and the different evaluation methods to determine your efforts’ success. 

Why Is Self-Learning Essential?

Dell Technologies came up with a report that indicated that automation and rapid technological change could see over 85% of jobs invented by 2030. The company asserts that the pace of change will be fast that people will need to learn at the moment. That means that the need to gain new knowledge will be more critical than the knowledge itself. 

Another research by Deloitte shows that the half-life of learned skills is five years. You may be surprised to learn that the skills you develop today could be irrelevant in the next five years, hence the need to continue acquiring new skills. 

Self-learning helps you acquire problem-solving skills and gain secondary skills that will help you advance in your career. 

Other benefits of self-learning include:

Chance to Learn at Your Own Pace

Unlike a class setup where you follow a specific curriculum or course work, self-learning gives you the freedom to study at your pace. You can opt to study daily, weekly, or even once in a month without worrying about missing out on anything or failing your exams. Pressure-free learning means there are no expectations, deadlines, or timelines. 

No Worries About the Location

Traditional classroom setup requires you to be physically present, which can be limiting if you fail to make it to class on time. Self-learning isolation is exclusive as you can study from anywhere you like. 

Convenient Way of Learning

It can be frustrating if you’re trying to study and still make it to work. Balancing work hours and class hours can be frustrating, especially if you’re dealing with work deadlines. Fortunately, self-learning eliminates all these pressures of life and provides a convenient way to continue with your studies while also handling other responsibilities.

Gives You Control

Self-learning gives you the freedom to make all the decisions. You get to decide what to learn, when to learn, and where to learn from depending on your schedule. The lack of dependability on others allows you to make decisions freely, something that gives you a sense of achievement when you finally accomplish your learning goals. 

Learning different concepts alone also means you get to learn from your mistakes without being ashamed when you answer something wrongly in a classroom setup. 

High Knowledge Retention

Self-learning improves your memory performance, which translates into higher knowledge retention. Each time you exercise your cognitive functions, you help the brain perform mental tasks that improve your memory.

This type of learning also enhances inductive thinking. Inductive thinking is the ability to understand information and make conclusions based on the information you’ve comprehended. Self-learning gives you the information in bite-size instead of everything all at once. With time, you’ll find this method of learning fun and retain more information than before. 

The Challenges of Self-Learning

Some of the challenges of self-learning include:

You Only Have Yourself to Motivate

In a traditional classroom setup, you have a teacher or lecturer to motivate you to improve on your weak areas. However, when self-learning, you have no one but yourself to motivate. That can be challenging, but with resilience and consistency, you can achieve your goal. 

Difficult to Ask for Clarification if You Don’t Understand Something

In a self-learning situation, you can only figure out something if you don’t understand it. Some online courses are written and submitted to a site, which means if you don’t understand a specific concept, you’ll have to find another way to figure things out. 

Can Be Lonely

If you are used to a traditional classroom setup with other students, you may find self-learning quite frustrating and lonely. Unlike a traditional class where you interact with not only the teachers but also students, self-learning means having to do everything by yourself. You’ll need to set up your timetable and decide what to study. Moreover, it will take time to adjust to the one person class setup. 

Some Courses Have Limitations

Self-learning is a fantastic way to gain new knowledge. However, you’ll find some subject areas have limitations. That means you may need to supplement your new-found knowledge with traditional learning. These limitations can make self-learning challenging to pursue. 

May Waste Time Without Proper Guidance

You may end up misinterpreting some concepts, something that leads to wasted time in the process. Although some online lessons have lecturers available, a few only have lecture notes, and you don’t have access to the teacher. With self-learning, you only have access to what’s available, but with traditional learning, you have a guide to help you understand anything that’s unclear, which means less wasted time. 

How Can You Develop Self-Learning Skills?

Self-learning is a fantastic way to choose what to learn at your pace. Nonetheless, there is a catch; you need to have the devotion and self-discipline to commit to what you want to learn. 

If you’re struggling to make self-learning a regular habit, here are some tips that will help you develop and stick to self-learning. 

Get Curious

You need to be curious for you to learn anything. Ask questions about the topic and reread if you need to absorb information. Remember that if you are self-learning, asking relevant questions through the course will be for your own benefit. 

Have the Right Studying Environment

Unlike traditional learning, where you are guaranteed a study desk and chair, you’ll have to figure out your studying environment with self-learning. You’ll need to get a comfortable seat, desk, laptop, notebooks, and stationeries. 

Ensure that the place you choose is free from external distractions. Having the right environment will help you commit to the learning process. 

Have a Clear Vision and Goal

The world has millions of things going on, and it’s easy for your mind to shift to everything that’s happening around. Sometimes you’ll notice things that weren’t on your focus before. That’s why you need to have a clear focus and vision of what you intend to achieve. 

Being focused will make you find information that’s beneficial to you easily discoverable. Tony Robbins once said: ” Where Focus Goes, Energy Flow.” Remember that you don’t have all the energy, and you need to use the little one left to commit to your goal. Writing down your plan will help you go back to it, evaluate where you are, and identify areas you need to improve. 

For example, when you’re studying a new foreign language, you could set your goal as writing an article in that language. If you’re learning about programming, your goal could be to develop an application using that programming language. Setting these types of goals will keep you motivated and give you that drive to commit for the long term. 

Evaluate Your Learning Resources

Self-learning means you are the one to authenticate the learning resources available. That involves verifying their correctness to ensure you are getting credible information. Check to see what’s accessible to make your learning process a bit easier. 

Remember that this type of learning doesn’t follow a set course work or syllabus, as it’s a sporadic process. Sometimes you may be tempted to absorb all the information available, but it’s critical to filter out some information that may not be beneficial. 

You can use science journals and Google Scholar to authenticate the information. There are plenty of verified learning platforms that you can also use. 

Plan Wisely

If you want to succeed, you need to have a plan in place and stick to the set schedules. It’s essential to have deadlines as they keep you on track. You can do this by having a to-do list for each day. List down the activities for the day and assign each task an estimated time. Use a simple notepad, sticky notes, or an excel program. 

You can use the 50/10 rule. Science shows that your brain can only concentrate for a maximum of 50 minutes. That means you need a ten minutes break every hour of work. 

Practice Active Reading and Listening 

Have you ever read a page only to realize that after an hour, you can’t recall what you read? That’s because you were passively reading. Fortunately, this is something you can improve on by practicing active reading

You can do this by taking notes each time you study. Seek to understand what each phrase means, and list down the main points after each chapter. Get details instead of exploring the big picture. 

It’s also essential to practice active listening when watching video tutorials. Recall the main ideas at the end of each video and create your phrases instead of copying the ones already there. Also, ensure that you read what’s already there to understand what the lecturer intends to talk about.

Do Some Side Projects

If you are self-learning in a practical field like interior design or programming, you can take on a side project. That’s one of the best ways to apply what you learn. Don’t rush to take on projects; ensure that you start small and improve on your shortcomings. Take one project at a time and finish before moving to the next one. 

Projected oriented learning helps you create or build something as you learn, something that enhances your self-learning. Taking the side projects will also motivate you in the self-learning journey.

Have a Learning Session That Combines Skills or Knowledge Areas

You’ll find it quick to gain skills and acquire the knowledge when you focus on learning one thing at a time. Nevertheless, this method can limit your extent of learning. You may find it easier to mix knowledge areas as this will sharpen your grasp better than handling one knowledge area for a long time. 

Try Collaborative Learning

Another excellent way to stay on track with self-learning is to get into collaborative learning. Doing this enables you to meet with other people with similar learning aspirations and interests.

Collaborative learning has several benefits: helping you clarify certain concepts, getting some knowledge without prejudices, giving you more resources that you may not have access to, and giving you a new perspective of the same idea or topic, which translates into knowledge retention. 

Is There a Place for Traditional Learning?

Traditional learning is still as important as self-learning. There are specific topics that require face-to-face interaction like diving lessons, engineering, medicine, sports, and more. This type of learning provides immediate feedback, reduces the chances of misinterpretations, and helps gain problem-solving skills.

Final Thoughts

Self-learning is a critical skill that you can develop with time, whether you are a student or you’ve already started working. This type of learning gives you flexibility, allows you to make decisions, learn at your own pace, and not have to worry about getting to class on time. Nonetheless, you need commitment, resilience, and ambition for you to accomplish your self-learning goals.


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