My Self-Directed Learning

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One of the hot topics in Learning and Development is self-directed learning (SDL).  Malcolm Knowles in 1975 defined self-directed learning as:

In its broadest meaning, self-directed learning describes a process in which individuals take the initiative, with or without the help of others, in diagnosing their learning needs, formulating learning goals, identifying human and material resources for learning, choosing and implementing appropriate learning strategies, and evaluating learning outcomes. – (Knowles, 1975)

Or, as Mirjam Neelen and Paul A. Kirshner put it succinctly in a recent ATD Science of Learning Blog post, “SDL includes knowing what you need to learn, how to learn it, and being able to judge if you’ve learned it.” As the spring winds down, I thought I should review at my own efforts to learn thus far in 2017.  Of course, as I’m trying to be better at working out loud, I’ll do that evaluation right here.

As the spring winds down, I thought I should review my own efforts to learn thus far in 2017.  Of course, as I’m trying to be better at working out loud, I’ll do that evaluation right here.

What did I need/want to learn?

At the beginning of the year I had a number of learning goals:

  1. Deepen my knowledge of the xAPI standard for data interoperability for learning activities
  2. Begin the CPLP certification process
  3. Develop a thorough understanding of the components and drivers of learning analytics in the workplace
  4. Understand the Social Learning landscape – components, tools, benefits, barriers, etc.
  5. Maintain knowledge of learning technologies
  6. Strengthen and expand professional network

How Did I Learn It

My style of learning has two major characteristics – pitbull and sponge.  During a Twitter Chat last fall, I referred to myself as a pit bull learner.  By this I meant I am tenacious.  I will dig, chase, and not let go of information I need until I understand it.  I’m also a sponge.  I will gather and gather and gather information before I begin processing it.  Lots of input.  I think both of these are borne out by a recap of my efforts this spring.

Conferences – I attended two conferences – Center for Talent Reporting (thanks to Caveo Learning for sponsoring my attendance) and Elliot Masie’s Learning Systems and Tools 2017.  CTR was a deep dive into metrics, measures, and reporting. Learning Systems and Tools was the same for learning technologies and social learning.  Both were helpful from content and networking perspectives.  I also participated in eLearning Guild’s Future of Learning Online Summit.  The online summits are pretty much a string of webinars under one umbrella.  They are free as a part of my eLearning Guild membership.  Great content, but I’m not sure I’d pay for one straight up.

Workshops – I participated in CTR’s two-day Basics of TDPr workshop – which is the first stage of their certification process. The content was excellent.  But the conversations with Dave Vance, Peggy Parskey, and the other participants were the real gold here.  Definitely contributed to my learning analytics and networking goals.  I also attended workshops presented by the local ATD chapter – one on the CPLP process and another on the adult brain and learning.  Both were excellent.



Online Cohorts – This is a model of learning that I’m really liking.  this spring I participated in the xAPI Spring 2017 Cohort and am currently in the CPLP Virtual Study Group.  Cohorts are semi-guided, frameworks within which teams (or in the case of the xAPI cohort, multiple teams) work together to learn from and with each other.  I highly recommend both of these cohorts that run multiple times a year.  They enhanced my xAPI and CPLP goals respectively and both have advanced my networking efforts.

Webinars – In the past 5 months, I’ve participated in 28 webinars.  Of course, some are better than others, but overall, they are informative, costs effective (free), and convenient (I just need an internet connection).  Sponsored by professional associations (ATD, SHRM, HRE, etc), consulting firms (Caveo Learning, Bersin by Deloitte, Brandon Hall, etc), and vendors (

MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) – This spring I enrolled in Julian Stodd’s Foundations of the Social Age MOOC.  I’m a big fan of Julian’s work.  I was incredibly excited to participate in this MOOC.  I still haven’t completed it.  Same with the Learning xAPI MOOC that HT2Labs created last year (which I started after the initial offering of the course ended).  In both cases, I love the content and what I learned (thus far) from each.  They both advanced my learning in my learning goals in their respective area.  I’m puzzled by why MOOCs don’t seem to work for me.  In all honesty, the badges I can earn don’t seem to have much to offer (ie, would a highering manager be impressed?  Would a consulting client choose another consultant who had one and I don’t?)

I’m puzzled by why MOOCs don’t seem to work for me.  In all honesty, the badges I can earn don’t seem to have much to offer (ie, would a highering manager be impressed?  Would a consulting client choose another consultant who had one and I don’t?) incentive-wise.  Unlike the cohorts, there wasn’t much “group presence” in either of these MOOCs.  That made sense with Learning xAPI since I came to it in an archived state after the original offering. But I started Stodd’s MOOC with everyone else.  I do think that the lack of any assessment in Stodd did leave me wondering if I was “getting it.”  I’m still trying to noodle it out over why this particular delivery mode seems to not jive with me.  If you have any thoughts, please comment below.

Self-paced online courses – I completed several LinkedIn Learning (formerly courses.  I also have 3 that I have started and not completed.  One I abandoned after I realized it wasn’t teaching me anything that I didn’t already know.  The other two I plan to finish, but haven’t had the time or motivation to do so yet.

Blogs and other published content – I aggregate over 50 blogs in Feedly as my primary source of internet content.  I also find new content on Twitter and LinkedIn.  Since January 1 I have curated 384 posts, articles, images, and ebooks with annotations and highlighting (which you can see if you visit a site via my Diigo entry) in Diigo.  I regularly share what I’ve found here on neweelearning, LinkedIn, Twitter, and soon, Facebook and Google+.  My biggest sharing effort is my xAPI Resource Center designed for L&D practitioners (ie, low techie content).

Twitter Chats – As I shared in a previous post here on neweelearning, my new favorite learning is Tweet Chats (or Twitter Chats).  I regularly participated in #lrnchat and #pkmchat this spring.  I’ve also dabbled in #bersinchat and #guildchat a couple of times.  As I discussed in my post, their rapid fire, concise answer format leads to very interesting learning about you and your colleagues and the topics discussed.

Did I Learn What I Wanted to Learn?

Overall, I’m going to give myself a B+Grades

xAPI Standard = A+   The cohort was a tremendous experience.  I learned more than I anticipated from the experience.  Creating the xAPI Resource Center was a great enhancement to my knowledge as well.  I’m in the process of developing both public and proprietary (for consulting offerings) materials.

CPLP preparation = A  The virtual study group has been a motivator to keep up with my studies of the materials in the 1000+ pages of the CPLP learning system.  Two months out from my Knowledge Exam date, I’m feeling confident.

Learning Analytics = A-  This was objective was the focus of much of my spring.  I’m working on a couple of projects – including a Learning Analytics Resource Center.

Social Learning = B+  I’m averaging out two grades here.  An A for information gathering but a B- for application.  I have a number of ideas that I need to pull together that will improve my grade for application, so that’s a work in progress yet.

Learning Technologies = B  I feel like I did ok on this, but could have done more.  Not going to be too hard on myself.  There is soooo much changing.

Networking = C  This was the area I needed to focus on more.

I’ll be working on my professional learning objectives for the summer over the next week.  I’ll put them here on neweelearning when I have them.

As I’ve worked on this post, I’ve realized I need to be more systematic about my learning.  I’ve been looking for that personal learning tool that has been part of the aspirational outlook in the xAPI movement, but haven’t found it yet.

Your turn.  How do you track what you want to learn and whether you have?  What are your thoughts on self-directed learning in general?  I’d love to have you join in this conversation.  Please comment below.

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