Directed independent learning

Our students need to develop as independent learners, not only during their time at university, but after they graduate. 

Each Module Definition Form (MDF) describes the hours of learning in terms of contact time (in class) and self-directed learning (i.e. independent learning). Typically self-directed or independent learning accounts for two-thirds to three-quarters of the total time spent on a module.


Research shows that students are aware that they are responsible for much of their learning throughout their course. However, they may not understand what form this takes, nor may they have all of the skills that they need in order to become effective independent learners. This is especially the case for students who are new to higher education. School leavers will be used to much more structured learning and are likely to view their independent learning at university as equivalent to ‘homework’. Students who have been away from education for some time may be very uncertain about what is expected of them.

Supporting independent learning

Providing support for independent learning involves: 

  • providing structure – guidance on tasks that will be effective use of time, rather than simply ‘doing more’
  • linking independent learning to class sessions – ensure that independent learning tasks relate to work undertaken in taught sessions
  • ensuring that students have the requisite skills – academic skills and time management are key elements

External resources