Benefits & Issues

Benefits and Issues Icon.jpgWelcome to the Benefits and Issues Page!

While self-guided learning venture revenues are in the billions of dollars and growing, they do have a number of downsides that go along with all of the incredible benefits. Self-guided learning can be a double-edged sword, as you will read. Below is a brief overview of some benefits of self-guided learning ventures and some drawbacks.

Read through the ones we have listed, then add a few of your own that you deem important for discussion. We will collaboratively create and discuss these issues further in the discussion forum.


One of the greatest benefits (and fundamental keys) to self-guided learning is the incredible ease of access. Many self-guided learning ventures are available on-line and have easy access points. This could include being accessible on portable devices as well. This allows learning to access ventures anywhere in the world, and in any time zone. Many of these ventures also allow you to move at your own pace at any time. This makes them truly self-guided.

Self-guided learning offers a huge variety of learning opportunities. There are literally thousands of opportunities for self-guided learning experiences in the digital universe. Some of them are very specific to a career (like this one: Ophthalmologists), while others are more general in nature (i.e. - which is an opportunity to do a self-guided learning tour of a botanical garden). Within the public school system, there are opportunities for school-aged students who seek the advantages of self-guided learning (the Virtual Learning Centre Online High School in Ontario, and the Canadian Coalition of Self-Directed Learning).

Ultimately, self-guided learning is compatible with nearly all learning styles. This means that learners are able to choose the format of learning that best suits their strengths and needs to enable their success.

Self-guided learning is generally not time dependent and offers flexibility for those who have other commitments. It doesn't matter if a learner is working full-time, has family responsibilities or has a transient life-style (such as a business person), self-guided learning offers opportunities for success.

Learning is also made meaningful by placing the responsibility of learning in the hands of the learner. This takes the focus off of the achievement of a mark (which some may find problematic, mind you!). Learners learn what it means to be involved in their own education, being accountable for their own successes and truly being "in charge" and developing pride in their own accomplishments.

The bottom line is that self-guided learning creates a life-long learner. By introducing students to self-guided learning early on, self-guided learning will instill a desire to learn into adulthood. It will also ingrain many of the positive attributes that self-guided learning brings, such as responsibility, accountability, intrinsic motivation, goal setting and effective time management techniques.


The subjects and statements above that mark the benefits to self-guided learning, can also work to the methodology's detriment (a la the double-edged sword).

For those who are new to self-guided learning, or for those personalities who need guided structure, one of the scariest aspects is that it is not time dependent. However, the work still needs to be completed. Responsibilities and commitments have the capacity to consume and be all-encompassing, and may hinder the learner's success. This is also where many school-aged students struggle, as procrastination and socializing have the tendency to overtake education.

Learners must take full responsibility for all stages of the learning process. If a participant is not able to self-monitor and self-guide, or isn't able to intrinsically motivate themselves to success, they may not benefit from self-guided learning.

Learners need to know themselves and understand if they are able to succeed in a self-guided learning venture. The signs of readiness for self-directed learning include being organized, self-motivated and disciplined, autonomous, able to accept constructive feedback, and able to engage in self-evaluation and self-reflection.

Without having a background for educational assessment and delivery, determining starting points (a.k.a. Assessment FOR Learning) may be unknown to learners. Quite often individuals need this support, albeit initially for most, in order to escape setting unrealistic starting points which will hinder a learner's success.

Similar to determining realistic starting points, an inexperienced or unaware participant may have difficulties with achieving learning outcomes (a.k.a. Assessment OF Learning), which is very problematic. The communication between a learner and an adviser is critical to learning outcome achievement. If this communication does not or cannot take place, issues arise.

Establishing goals/setting criteria for success is another aspect that unwittingly trips up unsuspecting participants. The ultimate responsibility is on the learner to engage themselves in self-reflection and self-evaluation in terms of progress and setting goals. That is, if they know and understand the process for both of these! Read self-direction

As a learner progresses through a self-guided learning venture, they will need to monitor their own progress between set goals. But how are they supposed to know how to measure their progress? In that same vein, the learner will also need to re-evaluate their goals and determine if they need to be modified.

Over the years, self-guided learning has been met with much resistance by educators. This is primarily due to/through the Self-Directed Learning Perception Scale which is a self-reporting tool used to monitor the support of any given self-directed learning environment. Such resistance, stemming from the use of these tools, may include the threatening of the role of the teacher, testing the teacher's performance and the notion that self-guided learning cannot be measured.

There are also issues surrounding how self-guided learning is marketed to individual learners. The resonant question becomes just how do you become a success in the self-guided learning marketplace? Read: Marketing to Individual Learners: Bonanza or Booby Trap

Recognition (as was touched on with the resistance of educators) of successful learning becomes problematic within the realm of self-guided learning. What is the value that is placed on the learning? Often, self-guided learning is void of certificates, accreditation, degrees and even something as simple as a portfolio of collected evidence for learners, workers, organizations and associations.

Discussions Icon.jpg
Once you have had a chance to formulate your own thoughts and feelings about the benefits and issues surrounding self-guided learning, please join us within the Discussion Forum to discuss your ideas further.


Smith, Mark K. (1996) Self-Direction.
Marketing to Individual Learners: Bonanza or Booby Trap