Learner control refers to a trainee’s ability to manipulate the pace, order, content, and help offered during a training experience. Self-paced learning (also called “e-learning” when done electronically) and learner control are somewhat intertwined because the most lauded aspects of this style of training (e.g., time flexibility, adaptability to individuals, etc.) are often only possible when trainees have control over their own learning. The article details the positive and negative aspects of learner control on the amount of information learned, the satisfaction individuals have with their training experience, transfer of training, and participation in training, just to name a few.
THE RESEARCH FINDINGS
According to the article, the pros of self-paced learning are what you might expect: Trainees get a customized experience where they can spend the time they need to explore options, learn new skills, and engage with the training materials.
However, there are also cons to self-paced learning: people are often busy, unmotivated, and bad at self-regulation. While trainees may actually require extra time to complete a training module, giving them no time limits and control over content pretty much ensures that some will cut corners whether intentionally (just to have it over and done with) or unintentionally (overestimate how much they have learned or already know). In addition, in complex learning tasks, more learner control can be a detriment to learning and performance.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Self-paced learning is here to stay. Still, organizations wanting to make use of it should proceed with caution. In this case, they should seek to understand the advantages of giving the learner substantial control, but also prepare for the disadvantages.
Granger, B. P. & Levine, E. L. (2010). The perplexing role of learner control in e-learning: Will learning and transfer benefit or suffer? International Journal of Training and Development, 14, 180-196.