2.7 Developing independent learning
An important job of the tutor is to develop and encourage independent learning in students. In doing so, tutors can enhance the motivation of students as well as overcome barriers and obstacles that are associated with learning. Tutors are in an ideal position to help students take ownership of their learning to become more independent.
When starting with a group of students at the beginning of a module, the tutor should actively encourage students to seek out answers for themselves by browsing information available from StudentHome as well as module websites. Some examples being, library and academic resources/study guides, module guides and TMA submission dates. Other strategies that can be used for promoting independent learning may include:
Most educational literature agrees that a student’s motivation to learn is the key factor in their progress. Research has shown that study-skills training that doesn’t consider motivation is unlikely to result in much skill improvement. The key to a student’s success, particularly in distance learning, may be in their motivation to learn.
When adult learners are developing new skills, a balance of both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation is vital in order to succeed. However, when working online, adult learners succeed better in a supportive environment.
Motivation provides the driving force for students to tackle the difficulties and challenges that are associated with learning, particularly when students have other demands on their time. A student is motivated if they have a clear vision of their personal goal. Motivation is also influenced by the student’s self-perception and by belief in his or her own learning ability.
The following important factors should be taken into consideration for the motivation of students:
- Students have control over their own learning and are involved in assessment of that learning.
- Students have an opportunity to engage with what is important for themselves as an individual, for the qualification and for potential employers.
- Course content is seen to have relevance, is interesting and engaging, is fun, and presents a challenge.
- Clear deadlines are given for task completion and regular timely feedback is provided.
Talking to other students on the module can be very reassuring for students feeling generally overwhelmed; they often have good tips for dealing with specific problems too. Online forum discussions can help them see that many fellow students have very similar difficulties, as such, it is important for the tutor to promote the use of forums among a group.
Encouragement should also be given to students to set up or join a study group to keep in touch with other students, discuss ideas and be supportive and supported.
Sharing their ideas with others also provides students with an opportunity to practise their critical thinking skills. They can debate the alternative explanations and claims that other students have made, and defend their own standpoint.