Autonomous Learning

“Look at learning as a pleasurable thing, not as work”.

                                                                                 -Shehan Karunatilaka, 2022 Booker Prize Winner

Need or curiosity generally forms the basis for our learning. With increasing usage of technology in managing various aspects of day to day life and work, it is important to understand autonomous learning from the point of individuals and self-directed learning in the context of organisations. Though both may sound similar, they are different. While autonomous learning is the third stage of learning, the first two being cognitive and associated, self-directed learning is an environment that can be provided in the organisations (including family environment) for enabling learner autonomy.

Learner autonomy plays an important role in improving learning strategies and acts as a driver of learner engagement. By offering learners an autonomous learning approach, they can be equipped to perform better professionally as well as in their personal lives. Autonomy is more about letting learners exercise their ability to take charge of their own learning needs, styles, and goals. There are a plethora of knowledge resources that are already available to learners, but it’s necessary to organize them and ensure that they have easy access to this material at their point of need. This in short is self-directed learning.

I had complete autonomy in learning during my academic years from a young age and so also during later stages of my life. Most of us develop cognitive skills like language, basic literacy, numeracy, etc., at an early stage in life and in a very informal environment. As parents we provided an informal environment to our two sons during their growing years. My wife being a teacher helped them initially in honing their academic skills and I complemented her efforts by training them in life skills.

In every learning process we may distinguish between three closely linked processes which support one another. The figure given below is self-explanatory.

Though I did not then know this theoretical framework behind learning, I incidentally adopted this process during my R & D years as an electronics engineer. It is only during my working years I could apply many of the theoretical concepts that I had studied during engineering, to design systems and resolve field problems. However, I did not apply the concepts / frameworks that I had studied during my Post-graduation in Business Management (MBA) when I became an entrepreneur after working for ten years in a Public Sector Undertaking.

This was perhaps because I perceived MBA as a program that was meant to develop managers for corporate world and not to train the students to become entrepreneurs. Being a first generation entrepreneur, with so many uncertainties in market conditions and severe resource constraints, I went by gut sense (developed over years) to resolve the business problems, rather than theoretical understanding. On a few occasions, the problems were out-sourced to consultants at a cost.

This prompted me at a later stage to register for research in the area of entrepreneurship to understand the process of business incubation and mentoring when I decided to come out of my businesses.  After completing my doctoral program, apart from being an advisor to a couple of B-schools to establish Entrepreneurship Cell and Indo-Korea Science and Technology Centre, I also established a small Business Incubator to support Startups that can create social impact and offered honorary services as business mentor. This led to greater satisfaction than being an entrepreneur.


January 1st, 2023 | Ravi 56