Self-guided learning is increasingly accessible to us – through online learning platforms, digital content, discussion forums, etc. Sometimes going back to college to learn a particular discipline or subject is avoidable. To illustrate this notion of self-guided learning, I discuss my experience learning about K-12 and higher education systems over the last couple of years. I have a working knowledge in education systems and offer a unique perspective when I cross disciplines with my business and technology background.
I took a MOOC called Emerging Trends & Technologies in the Virtual K-12 Classroom and earned a grade of 96.4 percent (give you the grade as an assurance I took the course seriously). Through the course, I acquired a basic understanding of how teachers are utilizing technology and learning platforms in the classroom. Online courses are great for laying a basic, foundation of a new subject.
To understand how learning platforms work (and also satisfy curiosities), I took another five MOOCs in various subjects. Regardless of the subject, there are common elements in MOOCs (or any online course): finely tuned video lectures, learning assignments, quizzes and tests with instantaneous grading, and discussion forums. Practicing or applying what you are learning reinforces any knowledge gains (to be clear, in this case, I studied how learning platforms function).
Over the last two years, I read five books on higher education and two books on education from top thought leaders. In doing so, I became acquainted with perspectives of practitioners who have spent considerable time practicing, researching, and thinking about the education system. Learning from books is now more convenient than ever – simply click a button on Kindle to get it, make comments and highlights in the e-book, and follow the notes by clicking on links. A book is an immediate route into the mind of an expert where you follow their thought processes.
I have a daily routine of canvasing articles in major newspapers. I like the opinions section, where you get a pulse on what people are saying; for example, a parent talking about why Common Core testing is difficult on his or her child’s psyche. Newspapers keep you on top of the current issues and public opinion.
I have social media accounts. With Twitter I follow organizations providing educational services and discussing policy and funding issues. With LinkedIn I follow an education group of influencers. Articles in social media have insights from experts on current events followed by a long list of comments from readers.
I actively blog about concepts that interest me. Blogging forces you to stay current and offer your spin on things. (In a way, it is like building skills by teaching what you have learned.)
In K-12 education, students learn basic skills in reading, writing, and math; in higher education, students learn higher-order skills such as critical thinking and problem solving. Students also learn technical skills based on the degree they choose, and may continue onto graduate school to deepen their knowledge. Regardless of a person’s undergraduate degree, he or she has the basic knowledge and resources to learn other disciplines and subjects through self-guided learning. And, if necessary, he or she takes an online assessment to establish a competency and earns a credential matching a traditional degree.
Economists, lawyers, statisticians and many other common professions apply their technical skills to other disciplines. Cross-disciplinary skills are and will be highly sought after in the Information Age.
Many of today’s global problems are just too complex to be solved by one specialized discipline. These multifaceted problems require trans-disciplinary solutions.[i]