Self Directed Learning Activities for College Students

Learning is said to take different forms, with the most common form of education being the school system. This type measures learning by seat time instead of the quality of self-directed learning activities for College Students. However, the rapid change in today’s world and increase in complexity of things has put fresh demands on the education system. As a result, there’s a call for change in how our schools prepare students to function in a continually changing society.

Today, students have better control over how they learn when compared with the previous generation, thanks to advancements in technology. With the internet, as opposed to visiting the library—though the two are corroborative—students can easily research and learn about topics that benefit them. Therefore, getting students familiar with the nitty-gritty of self-directed learning is of great importance towards productivity in its practice.

In this article, we will explore the following:

  • Introduction
  • What is Self-directed Learning?
  • How effective is Self-directed Learning?
  • Benefits of Self-Directed Learning
  • 15 Self Directed Learning Activities for College Students

What is Self-directed Learning?

Take a minute to think about the times you had the motivation to learn something, read about a topic, or complete an assignment in collaboration with others or entirely on your own. These cases are examples of Self Directed Learning (SDL). The concept of SDL is not a new trend in the education system—it has existed since the recognition of cognitive development, a concept developed by Malcolm S. Knowles—an adult educator.

We can say Self Directed Learning Activities for College Students are a system by which an individual takes the initiative to do the following;

  • decipher their learning needs 
  • create their desired learning goals
  • pinpoint the human and material resources needed for the learning 
  • determine and implement the proper education
  • and then evaluate the learning outcome.

How effective are Self-directed Learning Activities?

According to published research results, self-directed learning is the best form of learning. Nothing beats self-discovery, and that’s why it thrives among other forms of learning. You tend to remember and understand the things you discovered yourself more than what someone else tells or teaches you. However, as result-oriented as this technique can be, it’s not without its challenges—the major drawback being the student’s inability to find the needed motivation for self-directed learning.

According to the research report by Rodney Skager on self-directed learning, only a few learners were able to exhibit the necessary traits needed to exploit the benefits of self-directed learning. Those few are the introspective extroverts; other types of learners need to be taught. But, this drawback doesn’t mean that the concept isn’t beneficial. If learners can demonstrate the skill required for engaging in self-directed learning, there are countless benefits the idea has to offer. Before we look into practical steps for SDL (Self Directed Learning), let’s look at a few of the benefits it has to offer.

Benefits of Self-Directed Learning Activities

Self-directed learning has shown many positive effects, and researchers are still postulating several other benefits as they unfold. Here are few observable benefits of self-directed learning;

  1. Self-directed learning activities provide the knowledge of “how to learn”—the most crucial skill towards becoming a lifelong learner. Therefore, adopting SDL techniques in schools gives students skills they can grow and nourish for the rest of their lives.
  2. Self-directed learning demands applying essential life skills such as thinking skills, social skills, self-management skills, communication skills, etc. When students master the art of these skills and use them, they can easily apply them to other significant areas of life both within and outside the school.
  3. The practice of SDL leads students on a journey of self-discovery. It’s a proven fact that the way we learn things differs, but the sad truth is that several people go through life not knowing the best way they learn. However, engaging students in self-directed learning will activate their channel to education, which will help them succeed in the future.
  4. SDL gives students more room to explore by limiting the amount of time spent in writing and reading. Therefore, students learn to feed their curiosity, making them purposeful in the study, and giving rise to diversity and authenticity of findings.
  5. SDL, especially when done with a team of other students, fosters a collaborative learning atmosphere where students learn several real-life skills. It encourages sharing and cross-pollution of ideas and demands students to know the art of negotiation, compromise, evaluation, feedback, and several other interactive skills.

The benefits SDL has to offer are not limited to these five we’ve mentioned. Time will fail us to say how SDL fosters self-determination, freedom of learning, the renewed and genuine passion it builds, and several others. 

15 Self Directed Learning Activities for College Students

Independent learning can be challenging and problematic even for bright and motivated students. It becomes complicated when the student isn’t clear on what to do or how to go about it. However, as a means towards better understanding and engaging this mode of learning, here are tips of Self Directed Learning Activities for College Students;

Establish Your Goals For Learning

The first step towards making this learning mode work for you is to establish what you want to learn. You can’t learn or achieve anything if you don’t have a well-defined goal. Therefore, ask yourself what you want to learn and establish it as goals before proceeding to the next stage.

Make a workable list of things to learn.

Sometimes your mind makes you believe that you have a lot to learn. However, when it’s time to start working on them, you find it difficult to remember or articulate them. But, you can save yourself the stress of trying hard to remember when you make a list of these things. Making a list helps you arrange them correctly, cross out when you finish a topic, and know which ones are left to work on.

Seek To Understand Why Things Are The Way They Are

Curiosity is the bedrock of self-directed learning. If you can’t spur the art of curiosity, there will be no motivation for self-directed learning. Therefore, make it a habit to never take anything for what they say it is or its face value. Then start asking questions towards your channel of curiosity and gather the answers you need. Also, learn to separate the facts from the fables to form a solid personal belief system and convictions.

Be On The Lookout For Challenges

The word “Challenges” sends out a shiver down the spine of several persons. Most students don’t like to take up challenges. But, come to think of it, who says you can’t enjoy taking up challenges? Are all types of challenges unpleasant? In this regard, it’s a NO! Self-directed learning involves identifying a problem and rewarding yourself by solving it. Yes, you read that right; it’s a form of reward to dedicate yourself towards learning how to solve it. That’s genuine learning. Therefore, be on the lookout for challenges. 

Self-Directed Learning Activities: Monitor Your Personal Learning Process

Learning is more substantial and valuable when you can quickly pinpoint areas of personal growth. Going by scientific research results, you enjoy learning more when you set and beat your standards. Therefore, to enjoy self-directed learning, seek to measure your growth and personal learning process using personally set goals instead of school grades.

Understand Your Best Approach To Learn

We tend to learn differently. Some people are fast learners, while some take a while before they eventually get it. For some students, the general learning method doesn’t work; they need to put in the extra effort. However, the ultimate question is, do you know your learning style? Most people assume they know, but do they know? Even if you don’t already know, you can take a moment to consider the medium and format that helps you maximize learning.

Create a Fun-based and Rewarding Strategy

We can’t deny that learning can sometimes be tedious, but you can spice things up by creating fun ways to learn. For example, you can create a diagram, song, game-based strategy, etc., from what you’ve learned. You can also create a reward system where you reward yourself for crossing a predetermined milestone. Based on previous findings, this strategy—especially creating a reward system—can work wonders and make self-directed learning very effective. Therefore, find yourself tangible and fun reasons to take up the challenge and work hard.

Get To Understand The Basics Of A Topic

So, you’ve challenged yourself by picking a topic, or you have a school-based assignment you have to work on; where do you start? First of all, having an assignment to fulfill is to do a background check on the topic in view. So, you need to know the subject by reading the basics about it before proceeding to complex stuff.

Create Intrinsic Motivation

We need motivation for learning, but intrinsic motivation doesn’t come easily for most people—that’s where it becomes vital to learn how to self-motivate. One way you can motivate yourself is by collecting facts about the topic under study and planning to share your knowledge with others. Knowing you’re going to share what you are learning with someone can be a big boost to learning.

Share Your Knowledge With Your Mentors And Peers

You may have to build a network of learning colleagues for this step. Your network should include those you know are knowledgeable in the area of study, including mentors and your peers. The knowledge you share becomes clearer and sticks with you better.

Create Your Personal Learning Syllabus

You probably have looked at your school syllabus at one time and wish you had a say in how best to structure it. Well, that time has come, only that you’ll be dealing with your syllabus this time. It’s all yours to design whichever way you desire to learn what you want, how you want it, and when you want it.

Self-Directed Learning Activities: Use time to your advantage

Most college students complain of time constraints. While we are not here to debate over the availability of time or not, we can say time, and the lack of it can be used to your advantage, especially for self-directed learning. Consider using the thirty-minute you have during your lunch hour or the few minutes of your post-workout session. Learn to take short times like that to your advantage.

Choose Knowledge of Performance

As a college student, your grades are your primary concern—if not the topmost concern. While having a good grade is essential, what’s more important—but not widely spelled out—is your progress as measured against your personal goals. Here is why: grades don’t always reflect how much knowledge you’ve acquired, and that’s what matters in the end.

Put what you’ve learned into practice.

Knowledge acquired is only rewarding when you can put it into practice. You will have to put in the needed effort to use this knowledge. Therefore, create your opportunity to practice what you’ve learned, and you’ll find out how rewarding it can be.

Create your record of Learning

Make use of the several tools out there that let you document your learning. Let yourself enjoy using these tools, and many years down the line, you’ll look back at the things you learned, topics you deciphered and have some fun with them.


As mentioned above, nothing beats self-directed learning. The challenge is not knowing the Self Directed Learning Activities for College Students. However, it can be as simple as; finding out a problem or new information, critically thinking about it, actively participating in learning about it personally–or contributing to a learning community, designing your learning path, and other activities as listed above. It isn’t far-fetched; you only have to be willing to practice self-directed learning.

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