Four Tips for New Self-Learners

by Alvina Lopez on November 2, 2010

This guest post is contributed by Alvina Lopez, who writes on the topics of accredited online colleges .  She welcomes your comments at her email ID:

Although our education shouldn’t stop after we graduate from college or complete a training program, it’s sometimes hard to carry on the routine of constantly learning new things. Some of us are naturally curious and have no trouble searching out new sources of knowledge; however, others of us face busy schedules, might lack the right resources, and sometimes feel just too busy to keep learning. But that doesn’t mean we can’t change our routine! Those of us who do struggle to continue furthering our education could benefit from a few tips to keep our self-education on track. There’s no reason why we shouldn’t try to improve ourselves, our careers, and our knowledge.

Gather Resources

One thing individual self-educators lack is a formal set of learning resources, the kind you might find at a university or training center. Instead of already having these resources readily available, self-educators must build their own library, so to speak. Search out and bookmark websites that provide free educational and inspirational material, such as TED or Project Gutenberg. Some universities also make lectures available on YouTube. Many educational programs are available on internet radio. Also check out physical libraries and museums in your area; be sure to visit these often, especially when new exhibits come to town.

Create Learning Goals

Teachers at all levels begin each semester, week, and day with a set of learning objectives to keep the class on track. Because you are your own teacher, you’ll want to think up your personal learning objectives. Create a semester of study for yourself. Maybe in three months, you’ll try to have a basic familiarity with a new language? Or perhaps your goal will be to have read an author’s major works of literature? Regardless of your interests, having a goal to aim for will help keep you learning.

Reflect on your Learning

As you study on your own, you may not have access to other students to help you. Instead, you might want to consider writing in a journal or learning log. By reflecting on your learning experience, you’ll be able to work through concepts you might initially not understand. Through reflection, you can try to reexamine things you’ve read, listened to, or experienced, all from a new perspective. Reflection as a learning tool is an important practice. Think of your self-reflection process as similar to how astronauts often debrief after an important mission.

Find a Partner

Finally, try to find a learning partner, someone with whom you can discuss what you’ve learned. Working together with a partner can often help you discover something you hadn’t previously thought up on your own. In many ways, someone who shares your own interest in learning can be just the right inspiration to keep you on your path. This person can be a husband or wife, a co-worker, a family member, or a neighbor. As long as you both can check in with each other and talk about your progress, you’ll feel as though you’re not alone in your pursuit of knowledge.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Andika February 15, 2011 at 4:43 am

Sometimes, creating learning goal is difficult, but I’m sure it’s important. I often make a vague goal to learn something, and I find myself lost in the process. Do you have suggestion how I can formulate a strong goal?
Thanks for the article, anyway. I thought of starting self-education for myself, and this article is very helpful.

2 Race Bannon March 17, 2011 at 5:07 pm

Andika, thanks for your comment. Formulating a strong learning goal starts with the motivation to do so. I always find I need to ask myself why I want to learn something. For my professional advancement? Simply for the love of the topic? Once I’ve got that determined, I try to chunk the learning into digestible bits so I’m not overwhelmed by the task. Rather than “learn how to program a computer” I might instead start with “understanding basic programming concepts.” Everyone is different, but I find creating learning goals that can be accomplished in shorter time periods, then building those shorter accomplishments over time into a progressively deeper education on the topic, works best for me. Did I answer your question?

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