What Is Self-Learning? (With Benefits and Practical Tips)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published June 2, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

A self-driven approach to learning can be an effective way to develop new skills and areas of expertise. Self-driven learning strategies can provide a wide range of benefits for professionals who want to grow their careers. To become an effective self-learner, it's essential to understand the concept and discover different techniques that you can apply to your learning process.

In this article, we define self-learning, explain its benefits, and share some practical tips to help you implement self-driven learning strategies.

What is self-learning?

Self-learning is the method of gathering, processing, and retaining knowledge without the help of another person. Any knowledge you get outside of a formal educational setting, such as through self-study or experience, is self-driven learning. This approach can be beneficial for people who prefer learning at their own pace or who don't have enough time to complete academic courses or programs. While this approach isn't a replacement for academic qualifications, it represents an additional learning method that anybody can use for skill development.

Self-driven learning allows you to assess and enhance your knowledge through practical application with little to no formal evaluation. If done effectively, this form of education can increase feelings of accomplishment and a sense of purpose. It can also help you gain critical skills that may help you advance in your career. Videos, podcasts, books, experiments, webinars, online certifications, and other formats can be effective for this form of learning.

Related: How to Improve Your Learning Skills

Benefits of a self-driven learning approach

Here are some prominent benefits of self-based learning:

Gives control over the learning experience

Self-driven learning gives learners the flexibility to think, interpret, and apply the knowledge they gain at their own pace, which is often not possible with system-centric learning. It also allows learners the freedom to refer to multiple knowledge sources. With this type of learning, learners can easily monitor their progress and adjust the learning experiences to match their preferences. This can be particularly helpful for working professionals whose schedules make it more difficult to pursue in-class learning.

Facilitates individualized learning

Classroom teaching and other forms of traditional learning systems usually have set structures that may not be suitable for all learners. Some people can easily understand written text, whereas others may be more comfortable learning from less traditional formats, such as videos and podcasts. Self-driven learning enables the learner to study in a format that helps them understand and retain maximum knowledge.

Builds critical soft skills

Self-driven learning can cultivate a desire to try new things and approach challenges from new viewpoints while also increasing enjoyment from the process of learning. Learners can learn about crucial skills like time management, goal setting, and organization while achieving their learning goals. By taking on new topics and solving different challenges, learners may experience an increase in their problem-solving abilities. This approach can also help individuals stay focused and develop better attention to detail.

Related: All About Learning on the Job (With Pros and Cons)

Creates intrinsic motivators

As learners understand and apply new knowledge, they may develop new sources of motivation and engagement. After witnessing the benefits of self-learning in their professional or personal lives, they may feel more motivated and committed to building a sustainable cycle of rewards based on their experience. This can encourage learners to take more responsibility at work, showcase their expertise, and access more employment opportunities.

Improves access

Ease of access is one of the most significant benefits of self-learning. There's no requirement to travel or stay at an institute, which helps use time and resources more judiciously. With the increasing use of digital devices for learning, many professionals can access online courses through laptops and other devices. These mediums can also connect them with like-minded communities and individuals for guidance, collaboration, and motivation.

Tips for implementing a self-driven learning approach

Implementing a self-driven learning approach requires discipline and commitment. You can follow these tips to use this learning method for career progression and skill development:

Set realistic goals

Setting goals that align with your professional and personal commitments is an essential part of creating effective learning habits. For example, if you have a full-time role, you can consider allocating a fixed time after working hours to self-learning. You can then adjust this according to your workload and change the timing to determine which schedule is the most suitable. By setting realistic and achievable goals, you can accomplish your learning objectives without compromising on work responsibilities or experiencing exhaustion.

Related: Effective Goals for an Individualized Development Plan

Create a schedule

An effective self-learning approach typically involves assessing your work schedule, learnings tasks, and personal commitments so that you can organize them in the best way possible. A schedule also ensures that you always have some time for studying and helps create a predictable pattern, which can be beneficial in building a habit. Following a ritual is one of the best ways to prepare for studying and develop a daily routine.

For instance, you could listen to some music to relax before you start studying. Another good idea is to find a quiet place for studying and use it at the same time every day.

Review and revise the information on the same day

Make sure you review and revise what you study before moving on to the next topic. An effective revision strategy may involve reading through notes, applying a new skill, rereading a chapter, or performing a short evaluation. This extra step can help you become a more effective self-learner. In addition, regularly revising what you learn can help with the long-term retention of knowledge.

Experiment with different learning tools and formats

You can try different learning tools and formats to determine which ones are the most suitable. As every individual has a distinct learning style, it's essential to find one that works the best for you. For instance, you can experiment with reading books or articles, watching videos, taking notes during an online lecture, preparing infographics, or listening to podcasts.

Take self-assessment tests regularly

Reading study material and notes can help you gain new information, but it's critical to assess how much knowledge you are retaining. Self-assessment tests may help you determine how much knowledge you are acquiring during the self-learning process. You can try different types of tests, like puzzles, quizzes, mock papers, and online tests to assess your performance. You can also consult friends or colleagues and seek their assistance in testing your skills and knowledge.

Related: How to Advance Your Career (With 7 Insightful Tips)

Take short breaks regularly

Taking short breaks during a self-study session can improve concentration and focus for some individuals. Instead of sitting for extended periods, consider scheduling your study time in sessions that last between 40 and 60 minutes. You can then take a 15-minute break to step away from your desk or study area. Setting alarms for breaks and studying according to the timetable can help ensure you stay on track and keep focused.

Choose your learning resources wisely

Self-study allows you to choose between a variety of educational resources and materials. When choosing your study material, it's important to find reliable and authoritative sources. You can also cross-check information from different sources to ensure the resources you are accessing are trustworthy. Refer to academic books, journals, expert courses, peer-reviewed papers, and other learning material by industry experts as much as possible.

Apply what you learn

Identifying a practical application for the knowledge you acquire can help enhance your self-learning. For instance, if you're learning a new language, try to improve your fluency by conversing with a native speaker or another learner. In this manner, you can develop greater confidence in your learning and increase your level of expertise in the skill or domain.

Related: 72 Types of Trades to Learn for a Successful Career

Connect with the self-learner community

Learning by yourself can sometimes be an isolating experience if you aren't used to the process. To combat this feeling, try to find a community of professionals who are also learning about similar topics and skills. You can find such communities online or offline and exchange feedback, suggestions, tips, and assessment results with them. This can also help establish accountability and motivate you to perform better.

Self-review and variety

Traditional teaching often involves conducting tests in an academic setting to assess the progress that students are making. With self-learning, you are you're your own teacher. To ensure your approach is effective, consider reviewing your progress periodically and finding ways to improve your learning experience. If you find that a particular format or goal isn't suitable, you adjust your approach and check your progress again later.

Explore more articles