Welcome to the online learning journey! Online learning invites you to develop your independent learning skills, to collaborate with others in a digital environment, and to develop a relationship with the instructor who will guide you through your course.

Identify skills for self-directed learning

Though all university courses ask students to apply independent learning strategies, online learning requires an even higher level of self-directed learning skill.

Many students have experience in teacher-directed classrooms.  In these classrooms, the teacher is the central figure, and the students take direction about what to learn directly from the instructor.  In these environments, students might spend time taking notes on an instructor’s lecture, and might focus much of their learning time on memorizing concepts in preparation for recalling them on an exam.

Online university courses are different.  The instructor is no longer the central figure in the learning environment.  You, the student, become the central actor in your own learning journey.  As you undertake this journey, you are supported by your community of fellow students. Your instructor serves as your guide, using their knowledge and experience to direct you to learning experiences that will lead you to your learning goals.

The quiz below provides a starting place for reflecting on your own self-directed learning skills. What strengths do you have? What new skills do you want to learn in order to become a stronger independent learner?  If you are unable to view or complete the quiz, please access this activity in an alternative format.

Next: Define Your Learning Community


Athabasca University. (n.d.). Community of inquiry coding template. Retrieved from http://cde.athabascau.ca/coi_site/documents/Coding%20Template.pdf

Garrison, D. R., Anderson, T., & Archer, W. (1999). Critical Inquiry in a Text-Based Environment: Computer Conferencing in Higher Education. The Internet and Higher Education, 2(2–3), 87–105. https://doi.org/10.1016/S1096-7516(00)00016-6 

Garrison, D. R., & Vaughan, N. D. (2008). Blended learning in higher education: framework, principles, and guidelines (1st ed). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.