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Why I Care About Self-Learning, and You Should Too

I wholeheartedly believe in the power of self-learning. This conviction comes from a very personal place. When my daughter was in grade two, I wasn’t happy with the math curriculum at her school. At that time, I was traveling a lot for work and, though I may have wanted to, I could not direct the learning I saw she was missing. So, I started looking for a curriculum that she […]

I wholeheartedly believe in the power of self-learning. This conviction comes from a very personal place. When my daughter was in grade two, I wasn’t happy with the math curriculum at her school. At that time, I was traveling a lot for work and, though I may have wanted to, I could not direct the learning I saw she was missing. So, I started looking for a curriculum that she could use on her own and learn by herself.

I looked everywhere.

I even made my own worksheets, but found them terribly boring and repetitive. I sought out online resources and talked to peers. Eventually, I came across Everyday Mathematics. It didn’t take much digging before I knew my daughter could use these to learn.

That’s exactly what happened. No matter where I was in the world, we would come up with monthly plans and then check in every week to see how she was progressing. She was excited and engaged by the material, eventually taking control of the monthly plans herself. She quickly showed not just how much she was learning, but how excited she was to do so.

Self-learning at iMerit seeks the same results: motivation, self-empowerment, and growth. Many of our team members may not have a growth mindset given their past financial backgrounds. Often, they have learned to reject hope, and that hopelessness has become a coping mechanism for their lives.

To inject hope for growth into their lives by showing them they can actually learn something almost completely by themselves is to me the biggest way of enabling social change.

Here are a few ways we engage our employees in their own self-learning processes.

1) Put learning in the contract

All of our employees know that at iMerit they are not only expected to work, but to learn as well. They know that a successful employee here is not just one who performs well, but who grows while doing so. It’s all part of the terms of their work with us.

2) Measure the results of learning programs

We’re a company obsessed with data, so why would we not use that internally, too? We track weekly learning on each worker in our company-wide platform. Everyone from the newest hire to the CEO are invested in monitoring these metrics, and building an environment in which we can watch them improve.

3) Acknowledge the trade-off

iMerit is a company that, just like others, reports to investors, and to a bottom line. But we also serve a greater social good, and deliver to a second bottom line of impact. Delivering to both of these well means building a system that works so that it can create impact while generating revenue. It means we must acknowledge that there might be tension – at first – between a learning team that wants to train our employees as often as possible, and a delivery team that wants to have employees working as often as possible. At the end of the day, we strive for a system that meets both of these needs. One where learning creates even better delivery outcomes. It’s truly a win-win.

4) Use a platform that works in your context

At iMerit, we love self-learning methods because they are great for contexts in which motivation abounds, but resources like teachers and time may not. For us, our self-learning platform incorporates learners, learning assistants, subject matter experts, and contextual FAQs. Together, these tools and resources allow learners to answer their own questions in a way that flows with their learning. Other organizations may benefit from MOOCs (massive open online courses), which have shown huge success in developing contexts – over 50% of users in the developing world complete courses or receive certification, compared to only 5-10% in developed countries (IREX).

We are here to shatter existing models and demonstrate that the future of work is bright.

To do this, incorporating learning is absolutely fundamental for us. It isn’t easy, and requires decisively including previously marginalized populations. But it is definitely worth it.

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