• pecial equipment is required.
  • Available to any numbers: it is available to any no. of learners studying same course at one time.
  • Standardized content: learners receive the same teaching.

Standardized Content:


This article is about self- instructional materials. It is about how students instruct themselves with self-instructional material without any help of the teacher, its advantages over textbooks. Open universities produce self-instructional materials. IGNOU i.e. Indira Gandhi National Open University, is one of such universities.

Print as a medium for transmitting information has been the most important component in learning. It has been so even in the case of distance education. It is because print medium is adaptable to many different learning environments. It is economical and it has traditionally been used for pedagogical purposes.
Printed material is prime medium for distance teaching. Most of distance education institutions rely on printed material complemented or supplemented by other media.
There are various types of media, which are used in distance teaching. These may be classified into two categories:
1.Print Instructional Media, and
2.Non-print Instruction Media.
The print instructional media is used in correspondence-education or postal-education. The printed matter and lessons are sent to the students through postal services.

As a teacher, trainer, and line manager or as a learner everyone must have used self-instructional material in open, distance or flexible learning contexts. In primary school it may have involved you giving children a work card in arithmetic to complete, a tactile puzzle to solve or directions to follow in playing a game. In secondary school you may have provided directions to conduct an experiment, data to solve a problem or guidelines to undertake project work. In further education & training you may have prepared materials to stimulate fault diagnosis or used multimedia & computer based packages to provide a resource for your teaching. At its simplest you may have given learners a technical report, blueprint, circuit diagram or extract to study together with a series of questions to answer. You may have followed the manufacturers instructions to assemble DIY furniture, programme the time control on the central heating or cooker-with different degrees of success! All of the above could constitute self-instructional material.
If you were involved in producing self-instructional material it would be worth considering what features of these materials you currently exploit plan. If you are planning to be involved you could consider what feature you could incorporate and thus maximize the effectiveness of your teaching.

The first paragraph shows that in how many ways the self instructional material can be used in different contexts, whether be it financial, industrial or educational environment.
Q. What is the distinctive feature of the self-instructional material?
Some of the features are,
  • Self-paced learning: each individual can work at his/her own pace rather than the pace of the group, which can be too fast or too slow.
  • Private learning: no danger of loss of face as it might be feared in certain kinds of group studies.
  • Available at any time: learners can learn when they wish rather than according to external timetable.
  • Available at any place: in students home or while travelling also unless any fixed or s
Learners deserve the best teaching and training material that we can provide; materials that are not affected by the particular preferences of the teacher or trainer. A feature of the self-instructional material is that it enables all learners to receive same teaching material. Furthermore, since the materials are available to others for scrutiny it is possible that the current thinking and arguments are possible to be central-rather than personal views of the author.
In large institutions it is not unusual for the learners to be taught by two or more trainers/teachers- each followings same book or syllabus or scheme of work, however an independent observer would be excused if they judged that two different courses were being taught! Indeed if a same person conducts two classes the difference in presentations is likely to be significant.

Expert Contents:

You may or may not be the expert in your field, however it is the distinctive feature of the self-instructional material that you can include excerpts from the national and the international experts. An obvious way is to publish existing teaching material in your teaching making sure that you don’t infringe with the copyrights. These may represent a degree of writings and presentations you cannot improve upon. You can even record a debate with a colleague on the topic on a tape or record a videotape for the learners of the places it would be impossible for the learners to visit, or they can take part in online discussions with the experts or other learners via computer mediated link (CMC).

Of course you don’t have to completely agree with the theories, modules put forward by these experts. Indeed you may wish to compare and contrast these views-presenting them to learners and inviting the learners to make up their own mind.

Structured Teaching:

If you ask a dozen specialists to formulate a material on doing a particular thing you would particularly find a dozen ways of doing it. Some would take longer than others to study some would stress on one element rather than the other and some would consume more resources than the other.
Of course the teachers are expected to provide the briefest of outline for a particular case of study. It is often the list of topics supplemented by two or three sentences. What is more, detailed structure or overview of the material is provided in the course publicity material.
A distinctive feature of self-instructional material is that the teaching structure and sequence is made explicit. Preliminary documents often an introduction and guide provide the general structure of the course, while preliminary pages in each module indicate the structure and sequence of teaching material-and alternate ways through it. If the material is devised by two or more authors or it has the advice of other people it reflects their consensus and is the most effective way of teaching the topic.

Everyone must be familiar with written technical reports, textbooks, chapters, academic results rather than self-instructional materials.
The main difference between textbooks and self-instruction materials is that textbooks assume interest while self-instructional material arouses interest.
As if the learner is not interested why would he purchase the material and sit down to read it.
A typical self-instructional material should prompt, question, and encourage the matter of the material.

1) Amuses interest.
2) Written for both teachers and learner use
3) No estimation of study time
4) Designed for all
5) Aims and objectives are not specified
6) Only one way through it
7) Structured according to needs of both learner and teacher
8)Does not consider potential difficulties
9) Summaries are not always provided
10) General style
11) Content packed
12) Less open layout
13) Learner evaluation not always conducted
14) Does not provide any study skill advice
15) Active response is not required
16) Aims at successful teaching


1.Arouses interest
2.Written for learner use
3.Gives estimate of study time
4.Designed for particular audience
5.Always gives aims and objectives
6.May be many ways through it
7.Structured according to needs of learner
8.Major emphasis on self-assessment
9.Alert to potential difficulties
10.Always offers summaries
11.Personal style
12.Content unpacked
13.More open layout
14.Learner evaluation always conducted
15.Provides study skills advice
16.Requires active response
17.Aims at successful learning

Self-learning is developed when teaching methods meant for all members of a group- failed to meet the varying needs of individual students. The most common description of self-learning methods is that teaching is directed towards individual students rather than the group of students.

 The learner takes up the responsibility for his\her learning.
 Emphases on learning rather than teaching.
 Teacher role becomes more of a manager, a facilitator or a guide.
 Learner - controlled instruction includes a no. of techniques, which range from the simple assignment to the most sophisticated computer- assisted instruction.

 Human beings learn many things from their own efforts. Every individual has natural desire to learn on his\her own
 Every individual is unique. Everybody learns according to his or her abilities.
 Any teaching system based on presentation of information to a group can’t take into account the wide variation in the rates at which individual students learns.
 As the students entering secondary education vary in their abilities, interests & needs, there is a pressing need for a wide range of instruction. Individualized instruction is the only panacea for such needs.
 In essence, the auto instructional method promotes the orderly & controlled development of an individual’s skill in much the same way as a good tutor might do.

 It gives the student greater importance & role in the teaching learning activity.
 It lays stress on individualised learning or self-learning.
 It requires careful monitoring of students working on their own or in small groups on practice a new skill.
 It Demands your active participation in teaching-learning work.
 Instructional system that is more controlled by the learner results in learner- controlled instruction whereas Teacher controlled instructional methods are lecture, demonstration, and team teaching activity-based instruction
 Emphasis on learning rather than teaching
 Recognition of individual differences
 Active student participation
 Working at one’s own pace
 Self-pacing,
 Provision of feedback and evaluation.

Self-learning is not synonymous with independent learning or learning in isolation from other students. Self-learning may encourage independence from the teacher; this, however, is not usually the main aim. During self-learning, the students do not necessarily work in isolation from their peers.

 The students learn more effectively when they learn on their own. Self-learning develops critical thinking in handling of study materials on one’s own and enhances communicative skills and self-reliance.
 Self-learning prepares the student to face the problems in his\her real life.
 Learning on one’s own is more enjoyable, exciting and rewarding.
 Self-learning promotes self-discipline in the students.

All classrooms techniques have certain disadvantages in common. Some are given below: -
 Students are not instructed individually.
 One student may be entirely passive, another active.
 Careful organisation of material is ineffective when the student is inattentive & passive.
 Although a student may be responding to the material that is presented. He does not receive immediate information about the correctness of his response nor is he able to proceed at his own rate.

There are two main categories of self-instructional method:
-More structured
-Less structured.

Under more structured methods:
- Programmed learning
- Personalized system of instruction (PSI)
-Computer - assisted instruction (CAI).


By applying the principles of operant conditioning in teaching human beings, Skinner developed an instructional model, which is popularly known as programmed instruction. When developed properly helps the individual learner to go ahead in his process of learning quite independently with his own pace and convenience. The instruction provided by a teaching machine or programmed textbook is referred to as programmed instruction or programmed learning.


Smith and Moore: -
Programmed instruction is the process of arranging the material to be learned into a series of sequential steps, usually it moves the student from a familiar background into a complex and new set of concepts, principles and understanding.”

Jacobs and others: -
“Self instructional programs are educational materials from which the students learn. These programmes can be used with many types of students and subject matter, either by themselves, hence the name “self-instruction” or in combination with other instructional techniques.”

Espich and Williams: -
“Programmed instruction is a planned sequence of experiences, leading to proficiency, in terms of stimulus responses relationship that have proven to be effective.”


Programmed instruction is a method or technique of giving or receiving individualized instruction from a variety of sources like programmed textbook, teaching machine, computers etc. with or without the help of a teacher.
1. In this technique the instructional material is logically sequenced and broken into suitable small steps or segments of the subject matter called fames.
2. For sequencing a particular unit of the instructional material, the programmer has to pay consideration for the initial or entry behaviour of the learner with which it begins and the terminal behaviour of the learner with which it begins and the terminal behaviour or the competence which student is required to achieve.
3. In actual operation presenting a frame makes the beginning. The learner is required to read or listen and then respond actively.
4. Programmed instruction system has an adequate provision for immediate feedback, which is based on the theory of reinforcement.
5. It is the interaction between the learner and learning material or programme, which is emphasized in the programmed instruction. Here the student is actively motivated to learn and respond.
6. Programmed instruction provides self-pacing- and thus learning may occur at individual rate rather than general, depending upon nature of the learner, learning material and learning situations.
7. It calls for the overt responses of the learner, which can readily be observed, measured and effectively controlled.
8. It has the provision for continuous evaluation, which may help in improving the student’s performance and the quality of programmed material.

Principle of small steps: -
1) Assumption that one learns better if the content matter is presented to him in suitable small steps.
2) According to this principle, a programmer while preparing a programme should try to arrange the subject matter into a properly sequenced meaningful segment of information called frames.

Principle of active responding: -
1) Assumption that a learner learns better by being active.
2) A good programme should actively involve the learner in the learning process.
3) The learner may not feel much difficulty in moving from one frame to another and to remain meaningfully, busy and active by responding to the frames.

Principle of immediate reinforcement: -
Psychological phenomenon of reinforcement is the basis of this principle. One learns better when one is motivated to learn.

Principle of self-pacing: -
1) Assumption that learning can take place better if an individual is allowed to learn at his own pace.
2) The programming of the material should be done in view of the principle of individual difference and the learner should be able to respond and move from one frame to another according to his own speed of learning.

Principle of student-testing: -
1) In the programmed instruction, the learner has to leave the record of his responses because he is required to write a response for each sheet. This detailed record helps in revising the programme.
2) It may also prove a good source for studying and improving the complex phenomenon of human learning.

In programmed instruction the presentation of the instructional material or subject matter to the learner in a suitable form is termed as programming.

There are mainly two styles of programmed instruction:

Linear Style: -The credit for propagating the linear programming style goes to B.F. Skinner.
1. Linear programming represents a linear arrangement composed of a single-track programme.
2. In this programme the learning material is presented in a series of small steps.
3. By presenting the material in the properly sequenced small steps the chances of an error in responding are minimized.
4. The learner receives reinforcement for each of his response by getting information about the result.
5. The programmer controls the instruction process. All the learners have to travel on the same path. The sequences of steps are not to be changed.
6. The learner has to compose his own answer to each question.

Branching Style: -
Norman, A Crowder, developed the branching style of programming. His intention was to use the errors to direct the students to an appropriate explanation or remedial sequence.

In branching style the student is presented with multiple-choice questions and has to select the correct response out of the given choices. Then he is routed through branches according to his response.
This style is based on explanation and reasoning. Therefore. It has been more effective with brighter student.

There are three major stages involved in the development of programmed learning material.
These are: -
1. Planning and preparation of the programme.
2. Writing of the programme.
3. Evaluation of the programmes.

The personalised system of instruction (PSI) is another self-learning technique, which emphasises individualisation of instruction and learner-controlled instruction. It is also known as Keller plan and is widely used all over the world. This technique is called PSI because instruction is designed according to the need and ability of the student. Like other individualised instructional methods, PSI also allows the student to move through course material at his\her own pace and requires mastery learning by him\her.
Features of PSI: Keller (1968) identified five main features, which distinguish PSI from convention methods of instruction.
These are:
1. PSI is mastery oriented learning technique.
2. It is individually paced technique of teaching learning.
3. It uses a few lectures to stimulate and motivate the students.
4. It uses printed study guides to communicate information.
5. It uses tutors to evaluate attainment of the objectives by the student.

In PSI, the student is given carefully prepared assignments which generally include programmed learning material, handouts and materials which are available in the library or at the learning resource centres. The materials include questions and exercises. The student is told about the nature of assignments. The student is also instructed about how to read and what to read. At a time, the student is expected to work on one unit only. The tutors ensure that the student is provided with proper reading material, remedial material and necessary help whenever he faces any difficulty. When a student thinks that he has completed the material, he can come to you. You can conduct a short quiz or test in order to evaluate the student’s mastery over the material. If you are not satisfied with the performance of the student, you should ask the student to restudy the course material. If you are satisfied, you should direct the student to proceed on to the next unit. The students should not be given punishment if she commits errors or secures low score\grade in the assignment. Since the student in this technique learns at his\her own rate in order to mere the individual differences in learning, a multimedia approach is followed in addition to written material.
As an instructional technique, PSI has proved to be better technique in comparison to conventional teaching. Research evidence shows that PSI facilitates better performance, increases retention and promotes transfer of training.


Project work as a self-learning method, is less structured as compared to PLM, PSI and CAI. It is also called “project method”. In schools, you may be giving assignments of various kinds to your students. Sometimes, certain assignments demand that students work on them for a longer period, say one week or two weeks. And produce something concrete or describe the process of certain experiences in the form of a report. Such assignments are called project work or project method. The dictionary meaning of the project is a scheme or design. Through project works students get experiential learning. This provides the students an opportunity to learn at their own pace and time, while they do certain activities more or less independent of the teacher. A project is an enquiry, conducted personally by a student who is expected to use a variety of methods (e.g. analysis, interpretation, planning etc) to undertake a task or study a subject (in terms of knowledge, skill or attitude) and to write a report, or design or make a product, or organise an activity, or solve a problem, etc., in line with the objectives of the project. Thus project work helps student plan, observe, analyse and synthesize. It tends to develop self-learning habits in the students. It provides real-life experiences to them. It aims at problem solving by them.

The aims of project work can broadly be classified into the following categories:
-Personality attributes

Project work helps the learner develop knowledge of the topic and learn the various techniques used in the area of study.

Project work develops the following skills in the students:
-Skills for independent work which includes planning one’s work, hunting for sources, collecting data, selecting relevant materials, fabricating experiments, manipulating instructions, making keen observations, analysing results, synthesising findings, making generalisation and presenting findings for use and necessary action.
-Skills for group work include working in a group, developing the ability to cooperate with others, developing fellow feeling and democratic spirit.
-Skills for communication include development of oral skills by argument and discussion with colleagues and supervisor (teacher).

Personality Attributes:
Project work also develops personality attributes, which may be higher mental abilities such as critical thinking, evaluative ability, analytical thinking, etc., and certain affective attributes like interest in the area of study, social sensitivity, etc.

Project work may be of different kinds. In school context, it may broadly be classified as laboratory work, fieldwork, and library work.

Laboratory Work:
Laboratory work aims at developing certain skills in the student through activities conducted in controlled conditions. Such project work is carried out in science and science related subjects. Laboratory work involves skills of manipulation, organisation and interpretation. Through lab work, students get real-life experiences, of course, in controlled conditions. The students get the opportunity to apply theoretical knowledge into practice.

Field Work:

Unlike laboratory work, fieldwork is conducted in real-life conditions, and not under controlled conditions. The students are expected to go to the real life situations where they observe a phenomenon, collect the relevant data, process and analyze the data and arrive at conclusions. Fieldwork is appropriate for both physical and the social science subjects. Community projects also come under fieldwork. Organizing a literacy campaign in the community, visiting a nearby factory, visiting to a nearby slum, etc., are some examples of fieldwork.

Library work:

Sometimes students may be asked to undertake project work related to library studies. Such a project has potential to promote individualised learning.


Self-instructional materials focus on self-learning. A distinctive feature of self-instructional material is that the teaching structure and sequence is made explicit. In learner-controlled instruction, the students control the instructional activity more than the teacher .The students depend more on him for learning than on the teacher. Most important it emphasizes on self-pacing. Self-instructional materials are more accurate for learning than textbooks. Textbooks assume interest while self-instructional material arouses interest.
This provides an overview of methods through which you can develop the habit of self-learning among the students.