Descriptions of self-regulated learners can easily start to look like that of an epic hero. They invariably display fair amounts of “motivation” and a practice perfected over time as they pursue a specific goal. Other frequent skills are “responsiveness to feedback,” “thoughtfulness,” and “personal responsibility.” A special place tends to be devoted to “self-awareness.” Definitions do abound, and yet, it is difficult not to think, “So what?” or maybe with more eloquence and optimism, “How do we get there?”
Andy Ramsden has a modest proposition: the Quantified Self-Learner. In an expert opinion piece for Moodlerooms’ E-Learn Magazine, Ramsden, Strategic Consultant at Blackboard with over 15 years of experience in Virtual Learning Environment strategies, shares his beliefs on how relatively simple it would be to leverage VLEs, not only to support this breed of learners, but to foster them in academia and the workplace.
In order for a learner to evolve into a place of autonomy and control, VLEs need to offer them two basic elements, Ramsden argues. The first: Actionable data. Information available in a clear and timely manner that the learner can plug directly into his skill acquisition practice. More often than not, analytics products for learning focus on providing key insight to teachers, who would only then transmit it to their class in the form of better learning strategies or remedial action. In Ramsden’s view, this is a missed opportunity to empower students with the same insight. The first lesson: consider Analytics products that include dashboards or interfaces designed for students.
The second element is also a way to be open about some of the perceived fears of self-regulated learning, based on the idea that a more autonomous practice would make students shy away from learning products and services. Rest assured, Marsden would comfort us: self-directed learners do require support, often institutional and personal. If anything, self-directed learners become more sophisticated learning consumers.
The larger part of becoming a self-directed learner requires adopting a “project management” mindset. No small feat, this involves many moving parts. At this time, a presence, both personal and technological, is critical to ensure the student is “learning to learn” in a way that’s efficacious and that maintains perfect form. The second lesson: offer learning experiences that focus on learning as a system and that involve both technology and human interaction.
After all, even Achilles needed an instructor.