Effective Use of Self-paced Learning in the Classroom Environment

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The purpose of this mini-course is to encourage instructors to incorporate more self-paced learning activities into their classes, and show them how they can create effective units that leverage the best practice of self-paced learning in both content creation and assessment.

Self-paced learning is a radical departure from conventional instruction methods because it allows students to proceed through a body of material at their own pace, instead of a pace that is pre-determined by the teacher. Much of the content for self-paced learning comes through prepared materials that students study for each unit. Each unit should also include assessment instruments to ensure that students have mastered the unit topics before they move on to the next unit.

In the self-paced learning environment, the role of the teacher changes significantly. Instead of being primarily a transmitter of new information, the teacher becomes a facilitator for the student's progress through the material. Each student will be moving at a different pace, so teachers will need to be flexible enough to respond to a variety of different student needs as they become apparent.

Course Objectives

  • Students will understand the concept of self-paced learning and its general methods of implementation
  • Students will choose to use more self-paced learning activities in their classes
  • Students will create effective self-paced lesson content for the modules in their classes
  • Students will create and implement effective assessments for their self-paced content

Unit 1: Why Should I Use Self-Paced Learning?

Unit 2: Designing Self-Paced Units That Work

Unit 3: Assessing Self-Paced Work Effectively


Zimmerman, B.I., DiBenedetto, M.K. (2008). Mastery Learning and Assessment: Implications for Students and Teachers in an Era of High-Stakes Testing. Psychology in the Schools, Vol. 45(3), 206-217.

Beyer, B.K. (1977). Self-Paced Learning in Undergraduate History: From Theory into Practice. The History Teacher, Vol. 10(4), 549-573.

Hambleton, I.R., Foster, W.H., Richardson, J.T.E. (1998). Improving Student Learning Using the Personalised System of Instruction. Higher Education, Vol. 35(2), 187-203.

Keefe, J.W. (2007). What Is Personalization? The Phi Delta Kappan, Vol. 89(3), 217-223.