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Self-Directed Learning Requirements for Learning Management Systems

Self-Directed Learning Requirements for

Learning Management Systems

(Adapted from research by Gerald Grow – Teaching Learners to be Self-Directed and others)

by Nick Anderson & Bruce Lewolt

In her highly regarded book, The End of Competitive Advantage, Dr. McGrath shows that the demise of once dominate companies, like Kodak, RIM (Blackberry), and Circuit City, was predictable due to their rigid structures that were designed to extract maximum value from what they thought was a sustainable competitive advantage. Further, that in today’s environment successful corporate structures must be designed to identify and quickly respond to a transitory competitive advantages and then move on to the next as the market changes. This means that the ability of the employees in the organization to learn and adopt new behaviors may be the only truly sustainable competitive advantage. Such an organization cannot survive with a minimalist approach to learning effectiveness. Instead they need systems that produce sustained changes in behavior, robust improvements in performance and that facilitate efficient self-directed learning.

All of this means that good learning management systems (LMS) need to produce deep and lasting learning and both guide and accelerate the learner’s progression from dependence to self-direction and learning independence. But, typically there are difficulties when an LMS adopts one-size-fits all approach that does not adapt to each learner’s developmental stage. For example, where a learner needs direction and the system is non-directive.

Another dynamic is that learners have varying abilities of self-directedness. The same learner can be very self-directive in subjects where they have both a robust knowledge level and a strong belief in their ability to perform (self-efficacy), yet need a high level of direction in subjects where one or both of these factors are missing.

So LMS design needs to reflect the stages of Self-Directed Learning (SDL) based on the Situational Leadership Model (Hersey & Blanchard). This means that LMS designers need to create an effective progression from dependence to self-direction that adapts to each learner and subject.

The first stage is to consider goals that are directly related to learning. For example:

  1. To create self-directed and life-long learners
  2. To create online learning that adapts to different learners
  3. To allow self-directed and dependent learning to co-exist
  4. To allow curriculum developers to easily create courses adapt to the individual learner.

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