Self-paced education: a revolutionary approach to your next big career move

There are a thousand reasons why you might consider self-paced education. You might find yourself overwhelmed by the pace of traditional education. Perhaps it’s the opposite: You’re looking to move faster than your educational institution will allow.

No matter the reason why you’re considering self-paced education, you’re not alone.

Many professionals — and students on every level — are choosing self-paced education, an alternative to the traditional education model.

What is self-paced education?

Self-paced education allows students to personalize their education environment to fit their individual needs, by offering courses students can complete at a rate comfortable for them.

Self-paced students are empowered with a sense of responsibility and confidence. They have control over the amount of material they want to cover, and can take the time they need to master one concept before moving on to the next one.

Students enrolled in self-paced courses are not locked into a schedule. However, many self-paced curriculums still require some deadlines to be met within the context of a particular lesson, to help usher students along within a defined time range.

Many members of the workforce looking to learn new skills will opt for self-paced education, since it allows them the freedom to find time to learn.

Not contained by a traditional 4-year academic definition, self-paced education can include a curriculum, professional training in the workforce, and further education in technical skills.

What makes self-paced education different from a traditional education?

Traditional education is teacher-led, and sessions typically involve the whole class. Students’ coursework must be completed within a defined time, such as a quarter or a semester.

Traditional education is found in most high schools, undergraduate and graduate programs, as well as in some online courses.

By definition, a self-paced education has less time pressure. Students can choose to move on when they feel as though they have mastered the content, and not before.

You may be a fast-paced learner. In self-paced education, you would be able to move at an accelerated rate, without having to wait for the rest of your class to catch up.

If you prefer a slower approach to education, particularly if you’re learning a more difficult concept, you would be under less pressure to complete coursework in a set time frame. Less pressure gives you greater freedom to process the material in your own way.

Many students operate between two extremes. They are able to devote more time to material they find challenging and move quickly past material they find easy or already familiar.

Common misconceptions about self-paced education

Outlining self-paced education first means defining what it is — and what it’s not.

Myth #1: Self-paced learning means education in isolation.

Students have the freedom to reach out to fellow learners in a variety of environments. There are discussion forums, opportunities to collaborate on video calls, and like-minded professionals willing to talk and answer questions.

Myth #2: Online self-paced classes are chaotic and unorganized.

Online self-paced programs are intentionally designed with a structure that is flexible to the student’s need and personal academic path.

Myth #3: Teachers are non-existent in a self-paced learning environment.

Teachers and course instructors design and create self-directed material according to the highest standards. These educators are just as invested in your academic success as you are.

While the teacher is not physically at the center of the classroom in a self-paced course, they are still a strong, guiding presence that is available to assist the student as needed.

At Pace, academic advisors, peer mentors and industry experts are with you every step of the way — in full support of your education.

Myth #4: Self-paced education is only for super-motivated self-starters.

The way you approach your education will look different than the next student’s approach. Every person is capable of learning, and one of the advantages of self-paced education is that it allows for the flexibility of those who have less time to spare.

Self-paced education does require motivation on the part of the student, but you don’t have to be the kind of person that commits to waking up at 4:00 am every day in order to succeed.

Pace advisors are standing by to assist in choosing a program that best suits you and your individual needs and strengths.

Myth #5: Self-paced courses are always easier than traditional courses.

Online self-paced courses are just as demanding and challenging as courses within a traditional framework. The standards set for quality of work are just as high.

Self-paced education also richly fosters the development of skills and experience, including problem-solving, resourcefulness, collaboration and self-discipline.

Myth #6: Self-paced, online education is a lower quality than traditional education.

Both traditional and online courses are carefully and thoughtfully constructed to best serve students’ needs. Just like online curriculums, traditional education models work to create effective courses, that in turn creative transformative students.

Myth #7: Online, self-paced courses are only for tech-savvy students.

While taking online classes does require a small base skill set needed to operate a computer or laptop, many programs offer assistance through video tutorials. Advisors are on staff to assist when any technological needs arise.

Does a self-paced education offer unique opportunities?

There are several opportunities that a self-paced education can afford you —  opportunities not available through a traditional education.

On-the-job learning

Many self-paced courses can be directly applied to the workplace, especially when they are part of your professional development. Implementing and practicing new skills increases retention and seamlessly improves your productivity.

Schedule resolution

You may be avoiding continued studies because of work and family conflicts, but self-paced education lets you complete your courses during times that best suit your calendar. Instead of framing your life around your classes, you decide where your classes best integrate into your personal agenda.

Soft skill development

Self-paced students grow in inductive thinking, gathering information through their coursework to draw their own conclusions.  Removing time pressure can also help a student’s knowledge retention.

Learning style diversity

Students learn at their own pace in a variety of different ways. For example, some are night owls and some are early birds. Self-paced education gives you the flexibility to find a rhythm of study that works best for you.

Confidence booster

A self-paced student grows in self-reliance and confidence. They learn how to engage with all the resources available to them — even if they come in nontraditional forms, such as social media.

By learning to think outside the box, adaptable students are well-prepared for an ever-changing workplace.

Which students might benefit most from a self-paced education?

A variety of students can improve their skills and pursue rewarding careers through use of self-paced curriculums.

Adult learners

Eduard C. Lindeman, known for his work in adult education, defined five component of adult education:

  1. Needs and interests motivate adult learners
  2. Adults orient education toward personal life and goals
  3. Adults learn best through experience
  4. Adults have an innate desire to be self-directing
  5. Individuality increases with age

With this in mind, an individualized, self-paced education can be an ideal choice for adult learners.

Distance learners

Because self-paced courses are offered online, students across the globe can access them. Knowledge isn’t only for those who can easily commute to in-person classes; instead, distance learners only need an internet connection and a desire to learn, in order to benefit from self-paced courses.

Employed students

If you are a working student, you may find it challenging to take additional courses that are only taught at set times. Traditional education models may offer classes in the evening, but these still may not be the most efficient and practical option.

Self-paced online education gives you, the student, the greatest amount of flexibility and choice when it comes to your academic schedule.

Many students whose work schedules continually fluctuate enjoy the adaptability that a self-paced education affords them.

Anyone looking for an edge in the job market

Additional certifications on your resume could be the extra boost you need in your job search, or your push for a promotion.

How long might a self-paced education take to complete?

The length of a self-paced education varies from course to course. Some certification courses may be as little as 3 days, and some can last years. At Pace, our courses are optimized for completion in as few as 24 weeks.

As part of setting goals, you will construct a timeline that best compliments you, your learning approach, your schedule and your expectations.

Can students find high-earning careers through a self-paced education workload?

Here’s the short answer: Absolutely.

Self-paced education covers a wide range of competitive and high-earning fields, including computer software, engineering, management, cybersecurity and data science.

Here at Pace, Career Services is already working to ensure our graduates are on the best path to finding their dream job — a place where they can bring all their talents to the table.

Talk to a Pace advisor today to start discussing your next step in self-paced education.