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How to Organize an Effective Self-Education Programme

Article Overview

In this article, you will learn about the pros and cons of self-education programmes. You will also learn how to develop one for yourself that will promote in-depth learning.

Pause and Think: “So much to learn, but I don’t know where to start.”

Computer science and programming, foreign languages, maths and science concepts, arts and literary skills and so on… There just seems to be a lot that piques our interests especially in a world where knowledge and information are increasing rapidly. There just seems to be so much to learn with so little time and limited resources. Where do you start and how can you best develop self-education programmes for yourself? How can you learn deeply and master the subjects and skills that interest you?

Pros and Cons of Self-Education

Education is for now the greatest way to get ahead in this world. The more knowledgeable and skilled you are, the better your opportunities for thriving in today’s world. These days, formalized learning and university education are gathering a lot of criticism and opposition.


Students in a university lecture theatre. Photo Credit: Play Buzz

In poorer countries, for instance, getting tertiary education is quite difficult, relatively expensive and doesn’t always seem to deliver the kind of know-how required in today’s fast-paced technological world. As a result, there seems to be a rising interest in self-education or DIY (Do-It-Yourself) education.

Teaching yourself a subject or skill can make education far less expensive and potentially more interesting. However, self-education also has its cons. For example, unlike most typical DIY education programmes, a standard university degree programme tends to force you to cover the entire curriculum for a particular field or subject. The way most people approach self-education tends to result in the lack of a deep, detailed knowledge of the field or subject. 

In a formal school setting, external incentives like attendance requirements, grades, formal tests and examinations serve as motivation for learning. These incentives probably remove some of the intrinsic joy of learning and perhaps create stress. But they also make your learning more difficult to neglect. Conversely, a DIY learner without those incentives that school offers might lack the kind of self-discipline required to teach yourself a subject or skill.


Self-education, when done effectively can be potentially interesting and adventurous. Photo Credit: Saleem Sufi

The bottomline is that if you are to succeed at self-education, you need to put strategies and mechanisms in place to get yourself to learn the subject or skill deeply. In other words, you have to carry out your experiments and develop a system of education that works for whatever it is that you might be currently interested in learning.

In general, we can safely conclude that the lack of a curriculum and discipline are the top of the list of reasons why self-education attempts fail.

Tips to Help You Develop a Self-Education Programme

Deep self-education requires more discipline than university education, not less. It’s true that general broad-stroke learning can be done if you have enough curiosity about the subject or interest in the topic. But, understanding the details required for useful application in a career requires a more disciplined and conscientious effort. Here are some steps you can take to ensure deeper self-education:

1. Define a goal

You can achieve almost anything when you have the right motivation. Your goal doesn’t have to be ambitious or all-consuming but it must be specific. For instance, let’s say you want to learn web design and development. You can set a goal to design an eCommerce website to sell your fairly used properties. Defining a goal for your learning provides motivation and makes your self-education programme more interesting and compelling.


What do you want to be able to do at the end of your self-education programme? Photo Credit: GreenBook Blog

2. Design a flexible curriculum

A curriculum outlines all the articles, topics and academic content you need to to master in the subject you are learning. Curriculums help formal educational institutions offer courses and programmes that are coherent and consistent across different parts of the world. And also, they can help you see the parts and pieces that form the unified whole or big picture of what you’re learning. Generally speaking, you can think of a curriculum like having a map when you’re in a country that is unfamiliar.

Furthermore, a curriculum will help you traverse effectively the vast learning resources available in libraries and on the Web. In other words, it will help you focus selectively on the information that matters.

3. Create feedback mechanisms

Feedback is crucial to learning because it helps you track your progress. Feedback mechanisms help you judge whether you’re really learning. And as a result, they also help you to develop efficient learning methods.


A simple feedback mechanism

How do you create feedback mechanisms? The answer is you incorporate feedback the same way you attack illusions of competence. That is, by producing something, practicing or taking tests. This is probably the most important feature of a successful self-education programme. As you make projects, practice and tests a significant part of your learning, you’ll most likely be getting feedback. This way, you can ensure that you’re actually learning.

Article Summary

In formal schooling, it’s often difficult to see where you can apply the ideas you’re learning. But if you’re going to sustain the motivation to complete a deep self-education curriculum, then you have to put application first. Otherwise, it can be easy to lose sight of the big picture and stop learning.

One important advantage of putting application first is that it helps you learn for long-term retention. Also, it forces you to learn with the goal of understanding because you can’t correctly apply ideas you don’t understand.


You can choose to work on creating a model such as this one when learning how to create architectural models. Image credit:

It is also very important to enforce a schedule. Why? Well, because a schedule helps you follow through with your study or learning plan. For instance, you might commit an hour of work at a particular time of the day to a certain subject you’re learning. The bottomline is to experiment and find a plan and schedule that works best for what you’re currently learning.

Scott Young has a theory that the most successful people in life aren’t the busiest people or the most relaxed people. They are the ones who have the greatest ability to commit to something nobody else forces them to do. Human beings have an amazing ability to form habits out of simple daily routines. People who seem to be disciplined and exert willpower more are that way because of habitual actions and thought patterns. In other words, your outcomes have a lot to do with what you get used to doing or thinking about.

Remember, intelligence is not fixed, neither is it a gift given to only a few. Even you can learn anything, irrespective of what you assume your talents to be.

Happy Learning!

Article Discussion

What do you think about the ideas shared in this article about self-education? What difficulties have you had in the past when trying to learn something on your own? And what changes do you think you can make to your approach to self-administered education? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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