Getting the Most from Online Learning: A Learner's Guide / Edition 1

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Getting the Most from Online Learning is a must-have resource that helps people, become better e-learners by showing them how to prepare for, participate in, and apply e-learning in all its variations. Written by the leaders in e-learning, this book is filled with practical ideas, suggestions, and information about a wide variety of topics including how to:
• Participate effectively in on-line learning experiences
• Contribute to and learn from discussion groups and chat rooms
• Handle e-learning peer evaluations
• Participate in online group projects In addition, the expert authors share their personal e-learning experiences and show how they have mastered the discipline of e-learning for themselves.

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What People Are Saying

From the Publisher
"Brilliant! Getting the Most from E-learning offers a unique and comprehensive opportunity to examine e-learning from the users' perspective — proving equally valuable to anyone contemplating either the use or creation of e-learning."
— Charlie Gardner, director, e-Learning Center, Home Depot

"This book is a driver's manual for e-learners! Whether you're just learning to negotiate the sharp curves of the e-learning experience or an accomplished e-traveler, this book gives you tips to stay on course throughout your e-learning journey!"
— Theresa Tommey, vice president and learning manager, Learning Strategy Group, Wachovia Corporation

"Worried about adapting to the still new world of electronic learning? This smart book enables you to understand the new technologies, such as chat rooms and discussion boards, and become a spirited self-directed learner capable and ready to leverage online technologies comfortably."
— Jim (Mo) Moshinskie, Accenture Professor of Human Performance, Baylor University

"Practical advice and tips for e-learners in gaining the most from the e-learning experience."
— Christine Trogdon, Wachovia Learning Strategy Design Group

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780787965044
  • Publisher: Wiley
  • Publication date: 8/22/2003
  • Edition description: 1st Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 204
  • Product dimensions: 6.16 (w) x 9.13 (h) x 0.72 (d)

Meet the Author

George M. Piskurich is an organizational learning and performance consultant specializing in e-learning interventions, performance analysis, and telecommuting. An active member of both ISPI and ASTD with over twenty-five years of experience in learning technology, he has been a classroom instructor, training manager, instructional designer, and e-learning consultant for multi-national clients and smaller organizations. He has created classroom seminars, OJT mentoring systems, and e-learning interventions. He is the author of numerous books including Rapid Instructional Design (Pfeiffer), Self-Directed Learning: A Practical Guide to Design (Jossey-Bass), and Preparing Learners for e-Learning (Pfeiffer).

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Read an Excerpt

Getting the Most from Online Learning

A Learner's Guide

By George M. Piskurich

John Wiley & Sons

Copyright © 2003

George M. Piskurich
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-7879-6504-9

Chapter Three

Becoming a More Self-Directed Learner

Why and How

Lucy M. and Paul J. Guglielmino

an approach to learning that will support your e-learning success.
The following questions will be addressed:

1. Why is becoming a self-directed learner important for your e-learning

2. What do you need to know about self-directed learning?

3. How can you develop your readiness for self-directed learning?

4. What learner support systems should you develop or ask for?


You know some of them-the innovators who seem to be always one
step ahead of everyone else: thinking, analyzing, identifying needs
for new learning, and finding ways to meet them. In times of rapid
change, learners like these acquire new skills, discover new techniques,
and implement new processes; and they prosper. You also
know the clingers-individuals who hold on to the old ways of
doing things despite evidence that these approaches are no longer
effective-the peoplewho shy away from new technology and live
defensively, not proactively.

Based on extensive research, the innovators are likely to be the
highly self-directed learners. They are also more likely to be high performers
on the job, to be at higher levels in their organizations, to
be creative and entrepreneurial and to have greater life satisfaction.
The clingers face a different scenario. Those who do not accept responsibility
for identifying their own learning needs and making sure
that these needs are addressed may find themselves to be obsolete
(and possibly unemployed). (Curry, 1983; Durr, 1992; Guglielmino,
1994; Guglielmino & Guglielmino, 1981; Guglielmino & Klatt, 1994;
Roberts, 1986).

Why is SDL readiness so important for e-learning? Because your
best preparation for e-learning success is to enhance your readiness for
self-direction in learning. In a national survey of trainers, professors,
and learners involved in e-learning (Guglielmino & Guglielmino,
2001) two components of learner characteristics emerged as the most
important for success in e-learning: readiness for self-direction in
learning and technological readiness. Several studies have shown that
the technical skills necessary for most e-learning are usually quickly
mastered and very seldom, by themselves, reduce e-learning completion
rates; therefore, enhancing your readiness for SDL becomes your
most powerful avenue for e-learning success.


Now that you have some idea as to why SDL is important for
you as an e-learner, let's look at how you take advantage of that
knowledge: What do you need to know about self-direction in

Self-direction in learning has been described both as a process
and as a psychological predisposition of the learner (Brockett &
Hiemstra, 1991). SDL is a very natural process, and each person
is a self-directed learner to some degree. The innovator and the
clinger described earlier are two extremes of the spectrum. Similarly,
learning situations offer varied levels of opportunity to exercise
your self-direction.

The most frequently used definition of self-directed learning as
a process was developed by Malcolm Knowles (1975), whose work
provided a foundation for SDL in both educational and workplace
contexts. He described SDL as a process in which the learner, with
or without the help of others, identifies learning needs, defines
learning goals, develops and implements a learning plan, and evaluates
the learning gained. This cyclical process often results in the
identification of new learning needs. The learners who are most
likely to be successful in this process are those who have the highest
levels of readiness for self-directed learning: a complex mixture
of knowledge, skills, attitudes, and habits. Before proceeding, complete
the exercise in Exhibit 3.1.


What was your first reaction to being asked to name three self-learning
projects? Which of the following reactions was closest to
how you felt: "Have I done any?" "Suppose I can't think of any?" or
"No problem, I can name more than three."?

If you had to think a while before listing your learning projects
("Have I done any?") or even had vague twinges of panic ("Suppose
I can't think of any?"), you're completely normal. If "No problem"
was your initial response, you are far more aware of yourself as a capable
self-learner than the vast majority of adults are of themselves.
A major study of self-learning projects (Tough, 1978) revealed that
most adults are not very aware of themselves as continuing learners.
Many people, in fact, are unable to list a single project they have
conducted in the previous six months when first asked. Only after
going through an extensive interview process could they recognize
and describe their learning projects. Topics cover the range of
human experience, from the most typical current learning project,
mastering some aspect of computer technology or software, to learning
for health reasons, leisure pursuits, home improvement, improvement
of relationships, or for use in the workplace. Based just
on the brief prompt provided by that list, you can probably now add
many more projects to your list. Take a moment to think of some.

Were any of the learning projects you listed job-related? If so,
are they listed on your resume?

Typically, many of the learning projects reported by adults are
job-related, sometimes as many as half. You will not usually find
learning projects conducted outside of formal educational institutions
listed on resumes, however. This is easily understood in light
of the fact that Tough found that most people vastly underestimate
the value and extent of their learning projects.

How many self-directed learning projects would you guess the
average adult conducts per year?

According to Tough's research, the average adult conducts eight
learning projects per year. The average number of hours spent in
learning projects in one year was 816, representing a range from 0
to 2,509. Average length of time spent on an individual learning
project was 104 hours. Remember: The number of learning projects
you listed in the previous exercise was based on an unprompted list.
The figures cited from the Tough study are based on an in-depth interview,
including examples of typical topics.

Once you begin thinking of things you have learned on your
own and what others around you might have learned on their own,
it becomes obvious that all of us are self-directed learners to some
degree. Think for a moment about the people you know who seem
to be always learning something new. Write down a few characteristics
you would use to describe their attitudes, skills, and habits.
The learners that you thought of are probably highly self-directed.

When a group of experts was asked to describe learners who would
be likely to be successful in SDL, they arrived at this consensus:

A highly self-directed learner is one who exhibits initiative, independence,
and persistence in learning; one who accepts responsibility
for his or her own learning and views problems as challenges, not
obstacles; one who is capable of self-discipline and has a high degree
of curiosity; one who has a strong desire to learn or change and is
self-confident; one who is able to use basic study skills, organize his
or her time, set an appropriate pace for learning, and develop a plan
for completing work; one who enjoys learning and has a tendency to
be goal-oriented. (Guglielmino, 1977-78, p. 73)

The definition suggests a variety of knowledge, attitudes, skills,
and habits that are involved in readiness for self-directed learning.
How can you develop these to enhance your readiness for self-directed

How can you develop your readiness for self-directed learning?
Now that we have looked at the past and present, we need to consider
the future.

Knowledge of SDL

The first step in improving your readiness for SDL is gaining an understanding
of self-direction in learning, which you have already
begun by reading this chapter. It is important to realize that SDL is
a very natural way of learning and that you can consciously improve
your SDL readiness through your efforts and experiences.


Readiness for self-directed learning requires self-knowledge: an understanding
of yourself as a learner based on an honest appraisal. To
assist your analysis of yourself as a learner, you can use any of the

Learning style assessments to determine your preferred ways
of taking in and processing information (see vark-learn

Multiple intelligences inventories to determine your learning
strengths (see, or

The Learning Preference Assessment (Guglielmino &
Guglielmino, 1991) to assess your current level of readiness
for self-directed learning (see

Answer the questions in Exhibit 3.2 after trying one of the assessments
mentioned above.

SDL Attitudes

Some attitudes that support SDL are easier to develop than others.
In this chapter, we will focus on only a few. One of the most fundamental
is confidence in yourself as a competent, effective learner. Seeing
yourself as a "can-do" learner leads you to take the initiative in learning.
Thinking back over the number of things you have learned on
your own that you wrote down in Exhibit 3.1 and recognizing that
much of your most important learning has been self-learning should
provide a strong base for this attitude.

Closely related to this attitude are two others: accepting responsibility
for your own learning
and viewing problems as challenges rather than
. The successful self-directed learner believes that the primary
responsibility for learning belongs to the learner, not the instructor,
professor, or trainer. You are the one who must recognize your own
needs for learning and take the responsibility for making it happen,
regardless of the course design, other inviting activities, unforeseen
occurrences-all the distractions that are used by some as an excuse
for avoiding, postponing, or giving up on a learning project.

Creativity and independence in learning are also crucial in many
of the well-designed e-learning settings, settings that require analysis,
independent work, and the creation of products that must combine
theory and practice. If you are accustomed to very structured
learning settings built around memorization and following exact directions,
you may need a bit of time to adjust to assignments requiring
more creativity and independence, but don't hesitate to ask
questions and compare notes with other learners.

A willingness to seek help also facilitates self-directed learning.
The idea of the self-directed learner as a lone wolf struggling to find
answers in isolation is a myth. An effective self-directed learner uses
all the tools available, then invents those that are not.

Individuals who are reluctant to "show their ignorance" by asking
questions, seeking clarification, or seeking out expert advice
handicap themselves in terms of learning progress. Those who are
willing to ask for help reduce the time involved in responding to
problems and challenges and avoid frustration that can lead to poor
completion rates.

Another helpful attitude is valuing your own learning-a belief
in the importance of learning achieved on your own. In most of
your experiences in our formal educational system, you have had an
instructor who tells you what to learn, how to learn it, and when
you will be tested on it and who then gives you a grade to let you
know how well you met the expectations imposed on you. This type
of experience naturally leads us to devalue the learning achieved
outside of formal classroom situations. Learners soon get the idea
that learning that takes place outside of a classroom or a training
room doesn't count. The expansion of knowledge in the information
age makes this concept not only foolish, but potentially damaging.
New challenges and obstacles now arise daily, and if
individuals wait for someone else to tell them what to learn, they
and their organizations will lag behind instead of leading. Check
your own attitudes about learning in Exhibit 3.3.

SDL Skills and Habits

Logically, basic academic skills are an important part of readiness
for e-learning, especially reading skills. Depending on the instructional
design, writing skills can also be critical. Self-directed
learners are also usually skilled at identifying and analyzing their
learning needs. Key skills related to meeting these learning needs
include the ability to set learning goals, develop a learning plan,
identify resources for learning (both human and material), implement
the learning, and evaluate the learning. Time management
skills and document or report preparation skills support this process
as well.

Both habits of thought and habits of action can provide vital
support for SDL. Highly self-directed learners have a high level of
curiosity and a strong desire to learn, so they are continually thinking.
They habitually analyze their own learning processes and learning
outcomes, engaging in a process called meta-learning. In other
words, they are in the habit of observing and analyzing things in a
search for new insights, new meaning, new questions. A part of this
reflection is environmental scanning, an ongoing, active awareness
of changes in the environment and their possible implications, including
possible needs for new learning.

One of the most important habits of the successful self-directed
learner is the habit of persistence-the refusal to be deterred from
reaching a goal because of problems, boredom, or other factors or
events that might derail a less determined learner. Habits such as
systematic planning, productive organization of learning media and
materials, and completing tasks within the time scheduled can
streamline and anchor effective e-learning.


Obviously, some of the SDL skills and habits develop over long
time spans and could not be adequately addressed in this chapter.
We will focus on a few brief guidelines and planning tools, which,
if used regularly, can help to develop SDL skills and habits.


Analyze each new learning situation to maximize your gain and the
gain for your organization. Assess what will be most useful to you,
plan an approach to learning, and set a timetable. Two tools that
could be helpful to you in this process are learning contracts and
time/task calendars.


Excerpted from Getting the Most from Online Learning
by George M. Piskurich
Copyright © 2003 by George M. Piskurich.
Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents


About the Editor.

1. Voices from the Edge of E-Learning (Janet F. Piskurich).

2. E-Learning: An Introduction (Huey B. Long).

3. Becoming a More Self-Directed Learner: Why and How (Lucy M. and Paul J. Guglielmino).

4. How to Prepare to Attend a Synchronous E-Learning Course (Bill Knapp).

5. How to Attend a Synchronous E-Learning Course (Bill Knapp).

6. Succeeding in an Asynchronous Learning Environment (Harvey Singh).

7. Chat Rooms and Discussion Boards (George M. Piskurich).

8. Online Readings: Gaining the Most from What You Read (Ryan Watkins).

9. How to Handle E-Learning Peer Evaluation (Russ Brock).

10. Building Successful Online Relationships (Doug Liberati).

11. Participating in Group Projects Online (Carole Richardson).

12. Managing Distractions for E-Learners (Wayne Turmel).



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