by David Dos Santos
Now more than ever technological advances such as high speed internet and highly capable mobile devices gives students and learners of all types the ability to learn more independently. As an example, consider the ease of scalability and increasing autonomy of the typical well-designed online course.
The ultimate goal of self-directed learning is to maintain student interest and engagement.. They are solving real word authentic problems and directing their own learning. Our goal as instructors is to curate and provide guidance through scaffolding for this self-directed learning, fostering its evolution into lifelong learning skills. For example, in the ‘Are You Ready?’ online Blackboard workshop for students, the EdTech team promotes the concept of using a search engine like Google to solve such typical technology issues as browser compatibility and receiving updates. This translates to the professional world when workers are expected to maintain their own technology equipment and seek out their own professional development by “googling it” when problems and unexpected issues arise.
There are many video resources available online that cover a vast range of topics from precalculus to Advanced Photoshop. You can find and curate independent YouTube channels and professional outlets such as Lynda, Microsoft Office, Khan Academy, and Udemy. Currently, the New York Public Library is offering all members a free Lynda.com membership. Anyone who resides or is a student in New York City can get a library card for free. According to their website, Lynda.com is the leading online learning platform that helps anyone learn business, software, technology and creative skills to achieve personal and professional goals. Through individual, corporate, academic and government subscriptions, members have access to the Lynda.com video library of engaging, top-quality courses taught by recognized industry experts.
In the Office of Educational Technology, we used several Universal Design and Accessibility video courses as part of our professional development. One of the best ways to promote independent learning through technology is to model it to your students by participating in it yourselves. For example, the EdTech team has the Roadmap training course for faculty Blackboard users in three levels. Not only does the the course content aid in mastering online teaching, but The Roadmap course itself can be seen as a model for those who wish to design their own video learning modules in their Blackboard courses.
As an educator, it is important to keep in mind that independent learning through technology is not intended to replace your own online materials, your classes, or you. The role of an educator utilizing learning through technology is shifting to that of content creator to a curator of already existing content to supplement their courses and existing materials. By promoting independent learning through technology, you are empowering students who need extra help or are falling behind as well as students who are ahead of the class pace and seeking advanced content. That along with developing their professional learning arsenal is the pillar of academic equality.