Online Learning Students versus Learners

For most of us adults today we grew up thinking of a person who goes to school as a student, but there is yet another new word on the horizon for us to understand in order to keep pace with the times – that word is learner. In today’s educational arena the word learner is often used to refer to a student, the point being to make the term more active, to make the person perform the action of learning, rather than sitting passive and being taught.

Being a Student

Being a student has often been associated with teacher centered education, where the teacher is the center of the school universe, working to impart their wisdom upon the blank slates of student brains. We sometimes joke that students want to learn by osmosis, simply laying their head on a book or listening to words stream through the air and absorbing them. Sadly, it doesn’t really work this way.

A great educational researcher, Edgar Dale, studied human learning extensively and he reported his findings in what is called Dale’s Cone of Experience. He found that people only remember about 20% of what they hear. That means that if you are sitting in class listening to a teacher’s lecture, you are going to remember about 20% of it. That certainly does not seem to be time well spent. Sadly, though, we remember even less of what we read – about 10%, according to Dale’s research. That makes reading your text book about the least effective way to learn, not much more effective than laying your head on it and hoping for osmosis.

However, the good news is that Dale discovered that people remember as much as 70% of things that they say or write. And, you can remember as much as 90% of things that you actually do. This means that when you engage in discussions with your online peers or instructor, or when you write your response to discussions and assignments, you are remembering more than three times as much as you would by simply sitting in class listening to your instructor. Online education gives you this chance to learn more.

Being a Learner

Getting an online degree requires being involved. By doing your readings and then engaging in discussions on the topics you commit more to memory. You also engage in what is called constructive learning. That means that you take this new information you are learning, reflect upon it, and then merge it in with your original understandings of the topic, creating an entirely new understanding. This is how you learn and grow as a person. The real key to online learning students success is to be an active – and proactive – learner. Seek information actively by asking questions, asking for clarification, making connections, suggesting metaphors and more.

Making the Move

Online learning students should strive to make the mental switch to become learners. By actively seeking knowledge you move beyond simply doing the basics to get your degree. Instead, you actually learn, advancing your skills and ensuring that you emerge from school ready to get a job and excel in all that you do.

Have you heard the term learner before?

Did you recognize it as different than student? How?