Structured Learning vs Self-Directed Learning

Structured Learning vs Self-Directed Learning

CPDMost organisations follow a very structured approach to the delivery of learning for their employees. There is a widespread belief that employees can only learn if they are put into a classroom with a trainer providing a strict syllabus with set learning objectives.

This is simply not true – people are all different and we learn differently from one another.  Some learn faster; some slower.  Some are auditory, others visual, and others kinesthetic learners. Some learn more by reading a book; others prefer the podcast. Structured learning has its merit and for some people can prove to be the best way to learn. For others though, the flexibility provided by self-directed learning can be more appropriate.

Following is a short analysis of structured (or formal) and self-directed (or informal) learning for individuals and the perceived benefits of both.


Structured learning

Typically, structured training is any learning experience that is planned and organized in classroom-based lectures, e-learning courses, workshops, and seminars that have been accredited and that conform to specific learning guidelines and standards. For certain types of learning this type of learning is usually the most appropriate.

These include teaching tough subjects such as company policies or Health & Safety procedures; things you need to ensure they will translate well and be fully comprehended by all involved.

Structured learning consists of two-way interactions between trainer and delegates, and follows a methodical approach to learning that can be delivered consistently time and time again. To put the learning into context, Structured learning will often contain case studies and examples within the training pack, as well as Q&A, breakout discussion groups and possible assessments to ensure that key learning has been embedded. When a delegate has completed an item of Structured learning, they will in most instances be provided with a learning certificate of attendance, which can be used as part of the individual’s personal learning record for submission at their professional body, where relevant.


Self-Directed learning

Self-directed learning is considered more informal, and is often 1-way directional learning that does not necessarily follow a consistent and methodical approach to knowledge sharing. Self-directed learning can be quite broad in terms of the activities taken up and completed, and can include reading news articles, blogs or books, general industry study and research, watching relevant educational videos, informal discussion groups and reflective analysis.

Of the self-directed learning completed, individuals must elaborate further on their personal learning record as to what new knowledge has been obtained, what will be put into practice and how long in duration the self-directed learning has taken. Self-directed learning must be relevant to individual career aspirations and any fundamental obligations set out by their professional body.

Advocates of self-directed learning argue that at least creating a progression toward this type of learner independence is important. It represents a collection of skills that are valuable -sometimes critical- for independence and a high degree of agency in the rest of life.


Learning in Practice

Both types of learning are beneficial and it will be up to the HR or Learning and Development professional in each organization to create the ecosystem to support both. The case of structured learning is easier to implement, as staff can choose from lists of training opportunities they wishto attend. In the case of self-directed learning, for some individuals, more support is needed to get more involved with their training, and in some cases to receive direction in how and where to get the material needed to learn. A good practice to ensure the fulfillment of their training goals is creating a ‘learning contract’ with the learner.


The Learning Contact Approach

Many learning and development practitioners are facilitating learning through the use of the individualized “learning contract” approach.

Essentially, this technique encourages learners to take responsibility for their own learning and to become “self-directed” learners. In the contract structured learning can be included as well for certain activities that require that approach.  A personal learning contract will allow the learner to clearly develop an understanding of what they want to learn, specific learning objectives, how they will accomplish their learning objectives, and what they will produce as evidence of accomplishment (in case on self-directed learning).


The EIMF Way

At the EIMF we believe that there is no right or wrong way of training, but the proper way per case. We can help your organisation reach its training targets in an efficient and pleasant manner to all participants, by delivering training catered to your needs, and by helping your firm analyse and implement the most suitable training methodology based on your company’s specific circumstances.

To learn how we can help, give us a call at 22274470