Open and Distance Education/Course Design/Course Design and Self-directed Learners

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Aspects of self-directed learning[edit]

This course design is focused on the self-directed learning. So, the key understanding of developing a course design for self-directed learners is to understand first what the term self-directed learning is.

There are many ways of defining the term self-directed learning. So to simply understand it, Hiemstra (1994, p. 1) provided different seven aspects of self-directed learning such as: (a). individual learners can become empowered to take increasingly more responsibility for various decisions associated with learning endeavor, (b). self-direction is best viewed as a continuum or characteristics that exist to some degree in every person and learning situation, (c). self-direction does not necessary mean all learning will take place in isolation from others, (d). self-directed learners appear able to transfer learning in terms of both knowledge and study skill, from one situation to another, (e). self-directed study can involve various activity and resources such as self-guided reading, participation in study groups, internships, electronic dialogues, and reflective writing activities, (f). effective roles for teachers in self-directed learning are possible, such as dialogue with learners, securing resources, evaluating outcomes and promoting critical thinking, (g). some educational institutions are finding ways to support self-directed study through open-learning groups, individualized study options, non-traditional course offerings, and innovative programs. With these aspects of self-directed learning, it will provide a clear understanding to embark on developing a course design for self-directed learners.

Importance of Course Design for Self-Directed Learning[edit]

Good self-directed learners are able to: design their objectives, identify resources for achieving the objectives, chose appropriate learning methods, and evaluate their performance (Merrienboer & Sluijsmans, 2008; Moore & Kearsley, 2011). Abilities to direct their own learning are especially important for online learners in that online learners have geographical distance with their instructors and peers.

Therefore, course design which can help online learners direct their own learning is important (Lee, Barker, & Kumar, 2015). For example, course designers should analyze the difficulties that self-directed learners are facing, design some learning objectives that encourage and support self-directed learning, develop some lecture materials that exercise learner's autonomy, implement their teaching plans that encourage learners to be self-directed learners, and evaluate their course design whether it is good enough to support self-directed learning.

Course Designs that encourage Self-Directed Learning[edit]

Learner motivation is essential for self-directed online learning (Kim, 2009). According to Kim's (2009) qualitative study about motivational challenges of self-directed online course takers, learners feel motivational challenges when they take

a course with less interactivity of the course content (such as animations that move in response to a learner's action, simulations that learners need to respond to a set of different situations, and drag-and-drop quiz activities) a course with less human interaction a course with less use of applications (such as applications that enable learners to have simulated experiences of something) a course with less external motivation To conclude, for designing self-directed online courses, designers have to keep in mind the interactivity of course content, human interaction, use of applications, and external motivation.

There are other previous studies about self-directed online learners. For example, Lai (2011) examined self-directed online learners' self-directed learning readiness and network literacy. Lai (2011) pointed out that active learning, love of learning, and independent learning are the three key components of self-directed learning readiness. Also, Lai (2011) showed that internet skill and information evaluation construct learners' network literacy. The study would indicate that designers of online courses should also keep in mind the need of analyzing learners' readiness and network literacy.

Course Design for Self-Directed Learning in JMOOC[edit]

In this section, I would like to evaluate whether JMOOC has course designs that help self-directed learning. Since the previous studies showed five key points that designers of online self-directed courses should keep in mind (interactivity of course content, human interaction, use of applications, external motivation, and analysis of learners' readiness and network literacy), I would like to evaluate JMOOC's course designs by checking they have the five points.

Interactivity of course content: Since I cannot check all courses offered in JMOOC, it is difficult to conclude, but it seems that few courses have interactivity of course content (such as animations that move in response to a learner's action, simulations that learners need to respond to a set of different situations, and drag-and-drop quiz activities) Human interaction: JMOOC provides online discussion pages for each course. In addition, JMOOC has a study meeting system called ‘meet-up’ where course takers gather face-to-face and study together. Moreover, some courses provide course takers opportunities to take the course lecture’s face-to-face class (JMOOC, n.d.). Use of applications: Again, it is difficult to conclude since I cannot check all courses, but it seems that few courses use applications with which learners can have simulated experiences. External motivation: JMOOC provides certificates of completion free of charge (JMOOC, n.d.), which would be external motivation for learners. Analysis of learners' readiness and network literacy: JMOOC actively gathers learning active data and conducts research for the advancement of online courses, establishment of learning support technology, and promotion of a continuous learning (JMOOC, n.d.). Findings from such data would provide some information about learners' readiness and network literacy.


Hiemstra, R. (1994). Self-directed learning. In T. Husen & T. N. Postlethwaite (Eds.), The International Encyclopedia of Education (2nd ed.), Oxford: Pergamon Press. JMOOC. (n.d.). About JMOOC. Retrieved Dec. 26, 2017, from JMOOC website: Kim, K. J. (2009). Motivational challenges of adult learners in self-directed e-learning. Journal of Interactive Learning Research, 20 (3), 317-335. Lai, H. J. (2011). The influence of adult learners' self-directed learning readiness and network literacy on online learning effectiveness: A study of civil servants. Educational Technology and Society, 14(2), 98-106. Lee, S., Barker, T., & Kumar, V. S. (2015). Effectiveness of learner-directed model for e-learning. Educational Technology and Society, 19(3), 221-233. Merrienboer, J. J. G., & Sluijsmans, D. M. A. (2008). Toward a synthesis of cognitive load theory, four-component instructional design, and self-directed learning. Educational Psychology Review, 21, 55-66. doi: 10.1007/s10648-008-9092-5 Moore, M. G., & Kearsley, G. (2011). Course design and development. In Distance education: A systems view on online learning. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing.