Canada Association of Tourism Employees

Self-Directed Studying In The Distant Office

Why are the existing corporate training programs not delivering the desired value to learners?

This is due to inherent flaws in which they are structured. Take a look at the following aspects that illustrate how often existing approaches may not match the needs and requirements of learners:

  • L&D teams give training to employees instead of doing it themselves
    By nature, “forced” (or pushed) training encounters resistance. Learners absorb more when it comes to self-directed content and transfer more of what they have learned to the workplace.
  • Existing training courses interrupt work and can be distracting
    It is not that work “goes away” when employees attend mandatory / scheduled corporate training. In fact, the work day is usually longer and more stressful during exercise. The result? Both work and study are inadvertent victims of current corporate training programs!
  • Temporary corporate training is simply not enough
    The training can only help learners gain basic knowledge. In order for learners to progress, they need to acquire knowledge outside of the formal training setting.
  • Formal training ignores the realities of today’s remote work dynamics
    Without exception, today’s remote workers cannot learn in the same environment that existed a year ago. Today’s Work From Home (WFH) policy is a paradigm shift from previous models of telework (and distance learning). Formal learning strategies just don’t cut it anymore!
  • Training programs for companies are trained according to curricula
    Today’s WFH paradigm shows that learners need practical knowledge beyond what a scripted curriculum for formal corporate training offers. When employees are encouraged to use self-directed learning opportunities, they usually tend to develop learning skills (or improving existing skills) that not only interest them, but also enable real-time improvements in job performance.

How can self-directed learning help drive continuous learning – especially in today’s remote workspace?

Today’s workplace is characterized by remote working, where corporate L&D teams are not always able to monitor and enforce “planned” learning. The fast pace at which information changes makes it extremely difficult for trainers to update curricula, change training content, and retrain everyone in time to take advantage of the new learning content.

The more employees are interested in remote work, the more effective the learning paradigm, in which the employees themselves take responsibility for their learning needs and pursue them through self-directed learning opportunities.

How can organizations support self-directed learning?

With the help of the learning and performance ecosystem-based approach, companies can successfully support self-directed learning. This approach connects employees (learners) and supports them with the processes, technologies and content required to improve performance.

Here is a 5-channel approach to building such an ecosystem:

  1. introduction
    Introduce distant learners to the ecosystem so they can see the learning opportunities as well as the context and goals of the session. Tools that can be used to aid initiation – email, newsletters, and video messaging.
  2. awareness
    Have a continuous flow of engagement, awareness and contact campaigns based on the role of an individual learner in the organization. Tools to create awareness: video-based case studies, teasers, tips and tricks, advertising and information posters, banners and billboards.
  3. engagement
    Provide self-directed learners engaging learning content to immerse themselves in. Tools that can be used to improve engagement: study trips, gamification, performance support tools / just-in-time learning aids, and assessment-based challenges.
  4. collaboration
    Use collaboration tools to improve training effectiveness and measure performance. Tools that can be used to encourage collaboration: surveys, social learning, performance support, and contextual assessments.
  5. evaluation
    Use feedback to measure and analyze the effectiveness of the learning and performance ecosystem and decide whether the desired ROI has been achieved. Tools that can be used to determine the effectiveness and impact of the training: surveys, polls, data analysis and feedback loops.

What strategies can you use to promote self-directed learning in the remote workplace?

In today’s remote workplace, self-directed learning won’t happen on its own. It requires concerted strategy development by L&D teams to achieve this.

It is important to remember that with successful self-directed learning strategies [1]Learning and achievement ecosystems place the learner at the center of the system. L&D teams then build all other channels and platforms around the learner to enable self-directed learning.

Here are 7 key elements of a successful self-directed learning strategy:

  1. Awareness-raising and motivation of learners for self-directed learning
    When employees are focused on job performance, they can easily ignore the need for continuous self improvement. A good self-directed learning strategy begins with making employees aware of the fact that following a path of continuous learning always leads to better job performance.
  2. Enable self-directed learning
    Make learning resources available to learners so that they can consume them at their own pace.
  3. Create continuous learning opportunities
    Make learning a part of the employee’s daily routine. This self-directed learning strategy works best when it provides learning support tools, study and job aids, learning on the go, just-in-time learning, and learning within a learner’s workflow [2].
  4. Use informal learning
    According to experts, informal learning makes up between 70% and 90% of adult education. Informal learning opportunities such as creating a continuous learning culture, organizing moderated forums and learning centers, providing content for micro-learning, facilitating virtual book clubs, and providing coaching and mentoring for learners must therefore be an integral part of a self-directed learning strategy.
  5. Use social learning
    The most effective self-directed learning takes place when colleagues work together on learning projects in (online) social environments. The strategy must therefore use multiple social learning networks to ensure that learners have a place to meet, discuss ideas and promote their learning.
  6. Organization and curation of learning resources
    To enable effective self-directed learning, it is important that learners have access to content. Not just any content, but specifically curated learning resources that L&D teams organize for logical and intuitive access and consumption.
  7. Checkpointing for feedback and evaluation
    Continuous, multi-faceted feedback and evaluation are required to determine whether the strategy is working and influencing the desired course changes in the event of deficiencies.

Farewell Thoughts

Existing corporate training programs have their limitations, especially when it comes to changing dynamics in the workplace. They can only help learners gain basic knowledge. To help learners progress and improve their performance, L&D should enable continuous learning. Self-directed learning is a key strategy to drive continuous learning in the remote workplace [3].

I hope my article will help you successfully implement strategies to drive self-directed learning in the remote workplace. I’ve also provided advice on how to use a learning and achievement ecosystem approach to foster a continuous self-directed learning culture in the workplace.

In the meantime, if you have specific questions, contact me or leave a comment below.


[1] Get started with self-directed learning (SDL) – with a case study

[2] How to increase just-in-time learning with performance support tools

[3] How to use microlearning to build learning habits for employees and promote continuous learning in the workplace

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EI design

EI Design is a leading provider of learning and performance support solutions focused on transforming learning – keeping it relevant, impactful and ongoing.

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