The last few decades have seen an enormous acceleration in the development and uptake of communications technology, most significantly the internet. This has been accompanied by shifts in the ways that people do a wide variety of things, including the aquisition of knowledge, as the internet and other communication and research tools provide new avenues for these activities.
The internet is a general source of knowledge and information, providing seemingly unlimited resources on all topics. Communities and institutions exist (Open Culture for example) who promote and encourage self-directed learning online by providing resources, tutorials, training courses, etc to provide individuals with what they need to take their education into their own hands and point them to the best research material. Collaboration is very important for learning, and many facilities for it exist online (forums, skype, facebook, etc.)
A key disadvantage of self-directed learning is that it can be quite difficult to prove that one has an education. One can’t give ones self a degree or any certification. This is discouraging for those who want to become autodadicts, as it can make gaining employment more difficult for example. However, ways to address this issue can be developed, and as the quantity of autodidactic knowledge increases in society, the development of methods to recognise its value will appear more and more renumerative to governments and business. Certain professions and trades depend less on certification and more on portfolios or demonstrations of capability, such as in the arts and media, and in this case self-directed learning is often responsible for the bulk of the individual’s knowledge.
The best education is likely one in which formal and informal learning work together, supporting and complimenting each other. Future educational institutions may recognise this and be structured to better assist the integration of formal and informal learning as a holistic process. Many universities are beginning to recognise or encourage self-directed learning. There are many ways that self-directed learning can be facilitated by professional educators. They can, for example:
-Assist the learner with evaluation and assessment.
-Offer direction and planning.
-Teach skills of enquiry, criticism, self-evaluation, etc.
-Act as curators of resources and point learners towards these resources.
-Identify to what extent learners are fit for a self-directed learning approach.
Theories of self-directed learning are in the works, which may enhance the potential of self-directed learning, but methodology and technology are key areas in need of development for better self-directed learning.
4: Example, http://www.uq.edu.au/hanginthere/selfDirect/selfDirect01.html