Benefits

Independent Learning: four ways it can transform your education

“Give a human a fish, you feed them for a day; teach a human to fish, and you feed them for life”. 

As learners across the world adapt to a new normal of social distancing and disrupted school schedules, the convenience and flexibility of online learning has helped accommodate their learning needs in a new schedule.

At Fire Tech, we believe that independent learning offers students more than just flexibility; for us, independent learning is about preparing students with the mindsets, motivation and skills to thrive in the future. That’s why we’re proud to be announcing, after months of development, our brand-new self-guided courses to help students learn the latest tech topics on their own schedule – and supported throughout by regular, live tutoring from experts. 

What is independent learning?

At school, students are accustomed to teachers overseeing the majority of their learning; not only study, discussion and debate, but also time management, revision, reflection and assessment.

Independent learning, however, is the process of acquiring knowledge in which the student manages their own learning, rather than this being guided by a teacher. This learning style centres around self-management as a student, dictating the schedule and terms on which you learn. This autonomous approach creates a range of benefits, including developing the ability to research, question, and critically evaluate; identify gaps in your skills, and then know how and where to find the answers; and individually in critical thinking. 

The benefits of independent learning

Independent learning can bring extraordinary benefits to students. Academic research has explored how it can improve academic performance; increase motivation and confidence; increase chances to be creative and intellectually creative; and dostered social inclusion and countered alienation from peers.

At Fire Tech, we see the key impact of independent learning as follows:

1. Learn to love learning

I’m interested in why young people undertake some activities obsessively in some cases, and reluctantly in others. Children may spend hours on their favourite hobbies – mastering a video game, improving their technique at tennis, or learning to play a musical instrument. However, we rarely see this level of obsession with schoolwork.

So what is at play here? The first difference is motivation: with hobbies, motivation is often intrinsic (self-generated) rather than extrinsic (imposed by, for example, your classroom teacher). Intrinsic motivation flourishes through a combination of: conscious choice (rather than compulsory activity); reward systems to develop self-esteem, that set goals, share feedback and recognise progress; personalisation, where students focus attention on the subjects they’re most interested in; scaffolded problem-solving, where challenges are broken down into achievable stages; and real-world application, to help contextualise how what they learn is relevant to their lives. Each of these elements help to foster students’ curiosity. 

Likewise, each is a characteristic of independent learning. In this context, the student takes an active role: they work out the answers, rather than waiting to be told; they structure their time to learn on their terms; they learn because they want to understand, rather than being told to attend; and, as such, without motivation and discipline, they don’t learn at all. 

2. Learn to ask questions

What is it to know something? As David Perell outlines in What’s Gone Wrong in Schooling?

“Most importantly, [a good teacher will] recognise that learning is not and can never be something done to a person, that the real substance of teaching is done by the learner himself.”

At Fire Tech, we want our students not to learn by rote or by copying, but to really understand subjects through curiosity, investigation and experimentation. The way this happens is through effective questioning. We know that coding and other tech subjects can be hard, but they are best learnt through trial and error. Much like the way that programmers ‘debug’ code to find errors, humans can learn complex things through breaking them down into simpler, smaller tasks. 

In Mindstorms: Children, Computers, and Powerful Ideas, Seymour Papert discusses how traditional educational settings often discourage this skill of ‘debugging’ how something works by focusing on whether an answer is either ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. He believes that, when faced with a ‘bug’, the right question for students to ask is ‘How can we fix it?’ – thus promotes the value of discovery and inquisitiveness.

In the case of independent learning, the onus is on the student to choose the right questions to allow for experimentation as to ‘why’ something works the way it does. Fire Tech’s self-guided online course environment provides students with communication tools such as discussion forums, and live chat to ask in-depth questions and collaborate on finding the answers. In this setting, students can also take more time to consider the questions they ask than in the classroom, meaning they can dive deeper into the subject at hand.

3. Learn like an adult

A chief goal of school-age education is to help prepare a child for adulthood. The need to learn does not end with school; rather, education is an ongoing, lifelong process. Adults learn in a very different way to school. Adult learning typically occurs as and when a challenge presents itself – ‘how do I solve a problem at work?’ ‘How can I fix something at home?’ ‘How can I develop my mindset to deal with daily pressures?’ – and most through self-study, rather than relying on a teacher.

4. Learn the hard way

What some students don’t expect is that independent learning is more challenging, not less, than classes taken in the classroom. This is in part because without a strict schedule and with less interaction with tutors, the onus is on them to structure their time and complete assigned tasks, while avoiding procrastination. This helps develop resilience, time management and discipline – vital skills for success as students progress through school and beyond.

Fire Tech’s approach

Fire Tech’s self-guided courses aim to reflect these four goals to give students engaging, valuable learning experiences on the topics that they love.

Much as the world’s best universities combine lectures and classes with weekly tutorials from expert academics, Fire Tech’s self-guided courses are hosted on a dynamic online platform and combine project-based, experiential learning based around video lectures, online tutorials and quizzes, with the vital addition of live teaching from tutors with expert knowledge of the topics they teach. These tutors are PhDs researchers from the University of Cambridge, design engineers from Imperial College London, or Forbes 30 Under 30 Entrepreneurs.

Our curriculum has been designed by our team of education experts and former computer science teachers based on guidance from educators and alumni. Our self-guided courses allow students to take control of their learning, while challenging them to develop the same enthusiasm for the topic they may have for the hobbies they love. This means that Fire Tech doesn’t provide students with all the information required for each project; our pedagogy aims to challenge you.  

Find the right course for you

Fire Tech’s self-guided courses are available on all your favourite topics, from artificial intelligence and Python, to video game design and augmented and virtual reality.

For a short time only, get 20% with code FIRE20. Build your own video game, brush up on your Python coding skills, perfect your digital photography skills, and dive deep into artificial intelligence. To find out more about our self-guided courses, visit our website here or call our team on 020 3950 7310.