Everybody learns differently. With self-pacing, each individual can make the best use of his or her time, in order to meet his or her learning objectives. In a group setting, by necessity the instructors tend to gear their instruction to the middle third of the group; it’s not uncommon for some portion of the group to be either bored or lost. In self-paced training, both those extremes are easily remedied. Individuals who learn at a fast pace have the opportunity to gain competency quickly. Individuals who learn at a slower pace have the opportunity to absorb information without being pushed ahead too quickly.
Self-pacing can improve memory performance, particularly when the learner allocates more time to the more difficult material. This was scientifically validated a few years ago in an interesting study on self-paced learning by Jonathan Tullis and Aaron Benjamin.
With self-paced training, you can work it into your schedule wherever it works best. This matters both for personal and professional reasons. Are you a morning person? Study in the morning. Do you have unpredictable job responsibilities? Weave in the training around your other priorities. And often, location is flexible, too: depending on the design of the training, you typically access it anywhere you have an internet connection.
Once you develop the self-paced training curriculum and materials, you can train as many people as you want for modest incremental costs. The investment is heavily front-loaded toward designing or purchasing the training, then you can reap the rewards over time as the cost is spread across more and more employees who receive the training.
If you are designing training that you will be giving over and over on a fairly regular basis, then self-paced is a great option. New employees can gain skills quickly, even if they come on board after the training program is launched. (As opposed to a new employee who starts the week after a live training event took place…) With little or no additional investment, you can also have existing employees review the material as needed and fight skills decay. Dr. Eduardo Salas of the University of Central Florida tells The Wall Street Journal, “If you don’t use the skills very quickly, you will have big decay very quickly. That’s why you need to reinforce, you need to assess. If you learn something and you don’t have the opportunity to practice, eventually you are going to lose it.”