Today is a great time to be a self-learner. In the age of the Internet, you have access to countless resources in many different formats at any time of day. But with all the options, it can be difficult to figure out your educational trajectory. Perhaps you want to get an online university degree, research a topic as a hobby, or gain marketable job skills. Whatever the case, you’ll need to build an effective learning strategy.
Hold yourself accountable
Relying on yourself to be student and teacher while operating on your own schedule can make it challenging to stick to the curriculum you’ve set for yourself. And seeing as learning entails a lot of practicing and memorising, it’s best that you engage in your academia on most days. So be sure to set a minimum study schedule and try to stick to it.
Resourcefulness often comes down to asking the right questions. Assuming that you can find just about any answer to questions you have, think expansively and don’t limit the questions that you seek answers to. Then, take to your tried and true resources: books, search engines, news archives, or word of mouth. If you get stuck and don’t know where to look, ask for help. Librarians and web forum users are a wealth of information, and can point you in the right direction.
Taking a more varied approach to the kind of materials you learn from will help your learning become more well-rounded. You’ll get to see the materials from different perspectives, plus it can help break up the monotony of reading, which may be the bulk of your approach. So, for example, language learners can use different media such as videos and songs for cultural immersion and accent practice, or online chats to practice conversation with other learners.
Use what you’ve learned
There is some truth to that saying, “if you don’t use it, you lose it.” Subjects that require practice, like music, language, or math, may become rusty if the learning doesn’t translate into use. Practice your skills regularly to retain your knowledge.
As an autodidact, you’ll encounter plenty of distractions in your study. If you aren’t learning via a single-subject book, you may be inundated with tangential topics that send you on an entirely different knowledge quest. Instead of giving in, only to lose your whole afternoon surfing Wikipedia, set aside a “table list” of topics you intend to come back to.
Without a formal educational structure in place, assessing your comprehension can be tricky. Luckily there are a few ways you can go about it. The most apparent will be to revisit the goals you set for yourself at the beginning of your journey, and see how your progress measures up. For learners who have joined the online community in some relevant venue, your peers can offer input. If your learning is in the arts, build a portfolio to share online or with colleagues and seek feedback. For autodidacts seeking more formal evaluation, you can even consider enrolling in a standardized exam, such as the GRE.
Self-learning can be a helpful undertaking even for those who prefer classroom learning.
You can use it to get a leg up on the material before class begins, or you can use it as supplementary help if your foundational skills for a course aren’t as fresh in your mind. No matter the case, be sure to make the most out of it by following these crucial steps.
Author: David Grover is a Communications Manager at Timeo, a useful tool for businesses in the UK. He’s also a freelance career coach, who’s always eager to share his experience. In his free time he enjoys travelling.