Saturday, December 12, 2009

Self-education. Useful tips and resources for self-directed learners

Some people need new knowledge like food. Constant development is one of the requirements for the 21st century people. Everybody can dedicate some time in their daily routine for self development - learning new things, brushing skills. I even believe that if you don't sharpen your skills and train the brain with new things, it may rust :)

Throughout years I've been exploring the process of own learning and have got into a conclusion that I best learn something by myself, rather than being taught. I'm a "self-directed learner" type. Are you also? It yes, even if it's true for just some part, this post will be a great resource for you - full with self-learning tips and resources.

If you are more for the knowledge and not for the diploma/certificate or a maybe-attractive line in the CV, you will probably consider starting learning something extra.

Dedicate some time for learning something more than just your profession, an additional knowledge that will someday become handy for sure. Be it an additional foreign language or a hobby in any field.

What awaits you below:
  • Benefits of self-directed learning
  • Self-discipline and motivation
  • Tips for self-directed learning
  • Useful resources
  • Take advantage of free trainings
  • Be in touch with the latest news and trends

Benefits of self-directed learning
Self-learning has a lot of advantages, here are some of most obvious:
  • Flexibility: Self-directed learning is great when you are working and can't dedicate precious time like evenings for regular classes. You defne your own schedule.
  • You choose the content: You can choose what you are going to learn according to your own preferences and personal level of knowledge.
  • Building self-confidence and satisfaction: self-directed learning produces deep sense of satisfaction and accomplishment.
  • Successful self-directed learning can lead to a more productive life.

Self-discipline and motivation
Without a doubt, successfull self-directed learning requres a sound self-discipline and motivation.
If you have chosen to learn something by yourself, it may be because the subject is in line with your goals and future plans. Or it can be because it really interest you and passionate about the subject, wanting to really become an expert and master it. In both cases you have enough motivation to bring it to the desired finish.
If you decided to learn something because you need it for work, but you are not really into it, or it can be that it's just a temporary interest that may eventually expire sometime soon... you have to consider well before starting it, because you will need a lot of motivation from 'outside' and self-discipline to lead it to the successful finish.
I wouldn't consider myself as a very disciplined person and I'm not usually planning my learning and setting measurable goals (though I would love to be able to do it). However that doesn't prevent me from constantly learning new things and developing myself. It might not be as quick as I would want it to be, but I know that it all depends on me.

Constantly motivate yourself!

There is a list of many notable autodidacts that can maybe inspire you.

Tips for self-directed learning

  • Try to use a variety of media in learning. Not just textbooks but also video tutorials, audiobooks and podcasts, try to find tests and quizzes. Well, at least you can google it to find those.
  • Associate a specific location and a particular time of the day for your learning. That makes it easier to integrate the learning schedule to your daily routine. You won't everytime try to find a convenient quiet place for studying and won't struggle in finding time for it between your daily stuff.
  • While you keep the subject in mind during the day, you will notice a lot of hints and intereting sources that you weren't noticing before. For example, if you happen to hear about a lecture someone's giving on the subject or a conference taking place, you might definitely need to check it out. If you are learning a language don't miss the opportunity to meet and practice it with a native speaker. If you are enough passionate on the subject then and make your friends to also be aware of it, so they will constantly forward you useful related information. When I was learning Italian, everyone around me knew about it and I was aware of anything happening in the country related to the language and the country. I was all into it.
  • Grab the knowledge from different sources. If you know what you want to learn, you might look for all possible sources for learning about it. Then you will find the one that is descibing the subject in your own language, the most interesting way for you. For me, the diversity of sources pays an important role in learning. 
More on skills for self-directed learning, How To Do Effective Self-Directed Learning,

Useful resources for self-directed learning

Did you know that there are entire university courses put online for FREE?
How about courses of MIT and Yale?
There are numerous video lectures on EVERYTHING in websites like TED. Can you believe that?
We should be fools not to take advantage of them.
There are plenty of sources, but I'll mention those that I have used and are closer to me.

OCW.MIT.EDU: 1,900 course materials from MIT
OpenCourseWare of Massachusetts Institute of Technology: containing 1,900 MIT course materials including video and audio lectures and presentations, publications, articles, papers, etc.

BTW, hold on to hear the news!

The Ayb Educational Foundation, that is founded by ABBYY's founder and a great guy of an Armenian origin David Yang himself, has signed a memorandum of cooperation with MIT to put the mirror of its OpenCourseWare in Armenia!!! It's available through university and school networks like YSU network and ARENA. That means that from those networks you can browse the audio/video/text materials of MIT's OCW from right the local network without connecting to internet (for dummies: that means that it will load REALLY fast):


TED: Ideas worth spreading
It started out (in 1984) as a conference bringing together people from three worlds: Technology, Entertainment, Design. Since then its scope has become ever broader. Along with the annual TED Conference in Long Beach, California, and the TEDGlobal conference in Oxford UK, TED includes the award-winning TEDTalks video site.
On, there are the best talks and performances from TED and partners available to the world, for free. More than 450 TEDTalks are now available, with more added each week. All of the talks feature closed captions in English, and many feature subtitles in various languages.


INTUIT.RU: Интернет университет Информационных Технологий
For Russian speakers and those related to IT. I have found this website from a small poster in university many years ago and have passed several courses there! They include text and other materials, also tests and exams. You can also get certificate for each course!

There are almost 400 different free courses and might interest not only IT people, for example courses of advanced knowledge of Office applications.

Start your course:
Channels of universities with various interesting videos, lectures... explore yourself!

Start watching:

This resource contains user-submitted presentations on all possible topics. I constantly refer to it for finding interesting training presentations and generally for all kinds of useful materials.


WIKIVERSITY: with 11,713 learning resources and growing
Wikiversity is a Wikimedia Foundation project devoted to learning resources, learning projects, and research for use in all levels, types, and styles of education from pre-school to university, including professional training and informal learning.

NEWSU.ORG: Trainings for journalists, anytime, anywhere
This will be useful for journalists, writers and generally to those who are related to media and news industry. Some courses are paid, but there are also free ones!

Check out:
U.ABOUT.COM: a collection of free online courses from
It says: each online course is sent to you via email on a daily or weekly basis and is designed to help you learn a specific skill or solve a particular problem. There are no grades or degrees, only a whole lot of free online learning.

Start exploring:

More here: 100 Terrific Self-Learning Sites to Boost Your Resume During the Recession and Free Courses Online: 250 Free Courses from Top Universities.

Take advantage of free (or low-cost) trainings
There are constantly some free seminars, courses being held probably each week and are accessible for most of you, I believe. Even if it's not in your main area, you should still consider it because knowledge can't be too much and you never know when it will be needed.
During the past years I've taken advantage of several interesting courses and trainings that had nothing to do with my main job and even interests, however I regularly recall some interesting points from all of them and they get useful for my job. For example:
  • "Author rights and copyrights in film making" - I've taken this 2 or 3 month course back in 2003 and although I was completely dumb and clueless in anything about law and rights, I found it to be very useful later. At least the materials I've got then are still being referred to and sometimes friends borrow them. The announcement was forwarded by my friends who knew I was into film making and that it might interest me.
  • "Training for trainers" - this has a funny story actually. Some years ago when I was looking for a job, I have left my CV at i-dunno-which-stand during some Career Fair. I was called months later and offered a tutor's position in a newly opening university in Armenia. Of course it sounded funny and seemed a suspicious idea but rather than turning that down I participated in series of trainings conducted by some Iranian-British professor that I still remember clearly. Some very interesting points from that professor's lecture I still use as a hook in my trainings and presentations. Needless to say, that was one of the motivators behind my trainer's 'career' that I initiated later.

AIESEC youth organization, that I've been an active member of for 2 years, has given me a lot of opportunities for free trainings with various professionals. Consider joining it too :)
Join ARMACAD network for getting announcements not only on study abroad opportunities, but also for useful trainings.

Be in touch with the latest news and trends
When you are learning something by yourself, you need to be in touch with the latest news and trends that will also motivate you more for learning. The best way for that is subscribing to the blogs in the area and reading them occasionally. If you are learning a language, subscribe to blogs of an interesting to you topic in that language. When you are done with active learning, that will help you to stay in touch with the language and not forget it.

While I'm now studying more on new media, technology and journalism, I'm reading,,, Tech and Web from TimesOnline, Media: PDA -, Journalism 2.0, Brian Solis PR 2.0.

While I'm trying to develop my writing skills, I follow:

In the upcoming posts I will write about books for self-development and even might actually upload them for you. Also, I will translate and publish my article on self-studying Italian language that I've written 2 years ago.

Share your sources of knowledge and learning tips in comments! I will update the post and also group links by industries and topics if needed.


Unknown said...

so useful and interesting.. Your blogs are catching more of my attention day by day!

there are so many resources that I didn't know about them and I am trying to catch up most of the links here..

I think the physical place of the "real" colleges and the universities plays an essential role in setting up(shifting) our mind to the idea/state that we "carry ourselves" to that location to study/ learn.. But its almost not the same case in self education that's why dedicating a place to study as you mentioned here could be quite helpful.. so.. eventually being organized plays one of the essential roles in self education..

Thanks for sharing!

Sona said...

Proud of you, as usual!

AK said...

This is AnkammaRao, CEO of aggregates the whole worlds video lectures, has more than 500 courses and 12000 video lectures.

I am sure it is worth adding it here.

Thank you