Society today is characterized by, among other things, two main factors: (i) the abundance of information and large variety of resources freely available at no cost to learners, and (ii) information communication technologies for easy retrieval of information and communication of ideas. These factors make independent research and learning possible for a wider number of learners anytime and anywhere there is access to the World Wide Web, for example through the use of mobile technologies such as mobile phones and handheld computers (Ng & Nicholas, 2007). Hence, teaching students to be technologically literate to learn independently with Web-based resources is a step towards preparing them to be self-directed, life-long learners.
Dewey (1938) cited in Smith (1996) stated that inculcating the desire to keep learning is the key attitude to be developed in people. Similarly, Drucker (1994) asserted that an educated person is one who considers learning as part of a lifelong process since a substantial amount of learning is acquired through educational processes that are not associated with traditional schooling and that much of the knowledge an individual acquires is encountered well past the formal age of schooling. This is supported by Sargant (1991) who suggested that a large percentage of people is constantly engaged in self-directed learning in informal environments such as in the home or at work. In this regard, work, leisure, learning and collaboration within communities are intertwined activities situated within contexts (Lave & Wenger, 1991) for lifelong learners. Hence learning about the skills and processes of how to learn should not be confined to pedagogy only at the K-12 and university levels. At these levels, there is a tendency to focus on content and assessment within the framework or syllabus of the institutions. Schools and tertiary institutions should instead prepare students to be more critical thinkers by providing opportunities for them to develop this and other lifelong learning skills that will enable them to learn in many settings throughout their private and work life outside formal education. Being able to self-direct their own learning is one of the major steps in achieving this goal.
A lifelong perspective implies that schools and universities need to prepare learners to engage in self-directed learning processes because this is what they will have to do in their professional and private lives outside of the classroom. Fisher & Scharff (1998: www-jime.open.ac.uk)Top
Self-directed learning research originated from adult education (Grow, 1991; Sinitsa, 2000). A definition of self-directed learning is the development of autonomous learners who are able to take control of and responsibility for their own learning, including seeking help when difficulties are encountered (Garrison, 1992; Tough, 1967). Smith (1996) has explored the key issues around the idea of self-directed learning based on the work, amongst others, of Merriam and Caffarella (1991) and Knowles (1975). Merriam and Caffarella’s (1991) definition of self-directed learning is a process where ‘self-directed learning is a form of study in which learners have the primary responsibility for planning, carrying out and evaluating their own learning experiences’(p. 41). Knowles (1975, p. 18) defined it as a process in which
individuals take the initiative, with or without the help of others, in diagnosing their learning needs, formulating learning goals, identifying human and material resources for learning, choosing and implementing appropriate learning strategies and evaluating learning outcomes.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Open Source: Open source software is software that is developed, shared and distributed freely without any restriction to the general public for use. The source code must be made available in the distribution to allow developers to modify or improve the application and the changes shared.
Skype: Skype, founded by Niklas Zennström and Janus Friis in 2003, is an Internet phone service. It enables users to make free voice calls over the Internet to peers who are also online using Skype. The Skype software can be downloaded free. Users may need a headset or speakers to use Skype. The Skype communicating system has a wide range of features such as instant messaging, short message service, file transfer and voice/video conference. Skype is available in 28 languages and is used in almost every country around the world.
Shareware: Shareware is copyrighted software that is available free of charge on a trial basis with the understanding that if the users like it, they will voluntarily purchase the software and pay for the registration or make a donation to the program’s creator.
Blog: Also referred to as weblog, a blog is a chronological publication of an online journal of personal thoughts that are frequently updated and are for public viewing. The author of a blog is known as a blogger.
Wiki: Wiki is server software that allows anyone to freely create and edit, add or update content on a website through their Web browser. Wikis are created through the collaborative effort of visitors to the site. An example of a wiki is the open content online encyclopedia known as Wikipedia. Users of the Wikipedia website contribute to the development of the website by adding a new topic or editing existing content on the website.
Online Learning: Learning that uses a range of Internet-based technologies for communication purposes and for locating and retrieving information, for example researching with Web-based resources or downloading lecture notes/recordings from online management systems. Communication tools for online learning include emailing, listserving, audio/video conferencing and the use of chat rooms or discussion forums.
Listserv: Listserv is an electronic mailing list management system that automatically broadcasts messages to all subscribers on the list. Mailing lists are email-based discussion groups with a common professional or academic interest.