Why Is This Important For Success At University Education Essay

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Independent learning refers to the theory where learners are actively involved in their own learning procedure. For a student to be an independent learner means they take responsibility for thinking and learning themselves and don't rely too heavily on teachers/lecturers. A perfect definition of the term by Holec (1981) describes it as "…the ability to take charge of one's learning". Independent learning is a crucial concept in education generally and has numerous advantages to a student during their university careers and afterwards. This essay aims to outline the main features of independent learning and explore its many benefits to students, especially at the university level.

To be a good independent learner, a student has to possess certain qualities such as motivation, resilience, as well as good time management. This is mainly because of the dedication required on the part of the student in order to be passionate enough about learning in order to 'go the extra mile' and perform in-depth background research which goes beyond the standard classroom core curriculum. Students must in their own time, learn more on their relevant courses beyond what lecturers teach or handout to them. This could involve (although not limited to), for example, reading additional books, searching for online material such as academic journals and educational websites, and possibly even talking to non-academic professionals in the relevant field of study. A typical scenario for the last example mentioned may involve a law student deciding to have an informal chat with a barrister to learn his opinion or experiences on a particular legal matter. As can be seen, the possibilities and types of independent learning are quite continuous and can really just boil down to the student's own imagination and desired method for gaining that extra knowledge to make their studies that more dynamic and interesting. When students learn independently, they are actively engaging themselves in their studies, rather than just blindly following their set curriculum as if they were zombies.

Independent learning therefore makes a student much more open-minded and helps them in developing a more unbiased approach towards theories, arguments and so on. This is crucial for developing their critical and analytical skills, which are an absolute must at the university level, particularly at the later stages where students are involved in researching and producing thesis and dissertations.

Mynard and Sorflaten (2011) argued that "by being involved in this process, they start to make meaningful connections with the world outside the classroom". Even though this essay aims to outline the relevance of independent learning to a student's academic career, the above excerpt clearly shows us that the concept is a useful one in and out of the classroom, which is important for a student's general development. By taking their own initiative with their learning, students lessen their dependence on educators in general and can therefore benefit in a number of ways by, for example, increasing their self-reliance, allowing them to make informed choices about their learning by becoming aware of their strengths and weaknesses, developing new approaches to learning, enabling them to set goals and plan more effectively, and a whole myriad of advantages.

Independent learning also undoubtedly improves the quality of a students' academic work as they are able to pull from a vast pool of knowledge due to their extra-curricular reading. Exam grades and so on are therefore likely to be higher on average for those students who are actively engaged in independent learning activities. This is not just due to the extra knowledge they have gained, but due to the fact that they are generally better equipped at actually studying with the skills they acquire by trying to be independent as much as possible.

While good time management skills are required to be a good independent learner, it no doubt improves a student's time management and organizational abilities even further. This is because in order to effectively research certain issues independently, one has to develop a particular structure and approach towards learning which is really very flexible and depends on the way that the learner wishes to configure their own learning style since it is unique to them and them alone. In theory, therefore, independent learning makes a student a better learner in general as it were, because it allows them to work at their own pace and discover how they interact best with their learning. They can also develop certain tactics which a teacher can only explain so far. Such tactics may include skim reading and so on. These tactics of course, make learning a lot more efficient.

Another very important aspect of independent learning is reflection. Besides motivation and time management, students must be able to properly reflect or think back on what they learn in order to effectively monitor their progress as well as to evaluate what areas need improvement and so on. Reflecting is very important in independent learning and contributes toward making students more self-reliant in terms of their edification. It is highly unlikely that a dependent learner will ever get an opportunity to thoroughly reflect on their progress and advancement.

When considering the idea of independent learning as a whole, it is perhaps wise to take into consideration an interesting trend that is distance learning. Distance learning has been described by Honeyman and Miller (1993) as "a process to create and provide access to learning when the source of information and the learners are separated by time and distance, or both". The University of London was the pioneering institution to offer distance learning degrees, whereby students could take courses without actually having to ever set foot on the university campus. There were a number of methods which the courses and correspondence material could be delivered but there is no denying that this revolutionized the way education was conducted as more and more institutions worldwide gradually began to adopt this extremely convenient method of offering courses. Students could now study from anywhere in the world at specialist distance learning programs at these institutions. The development of this learning concept has certainly drastically increased the need for students to adapt to independent learning, most especially those that are participating in such programs.

The growth of Information and Communication Technology or I.C.T has enabled this system to further expand as it has allowed more advanced course delivery options such as live streaming, web conferencing, instructional television, to name a few.

Distance learning (which makes up a significant proportion of university courses offered) undoubtedly requires a great deal of independent learning since in most cases there is the lack of presence of a physical lecturer to guide the education process. In cases where there are physical tutors, then it is likely that communication between them and their students is going to be very minimal.

All in all, it can be concluded that independent learning is an invaluable skill for students at all levels of education but most especially at the university level. It develops a variety of qualities which further enhance a student's success. Such qualities include but are not limited to: good time management skills, initiative, better reading and writing abilities, as well as organization of tasks.

The implementation of distance education has also somewhat changed the way learners learn and also increased the need for independent learning among students. The benefits of distance education to students as well as to institutions and the community in general are numerous. They have also enabled more people to attain university degrees than ever before mainly due to their flexibility