Self-study is also for people who are not able to attend full time university, due to the high costs or lack of time. I met many life-long learners, career changers, and people living in remote places who were taking these courses for their personal improvement.
Self-learning can give you a lot of knowledge, build your skill set, and in my case can completely change the profile of the person. However if someone is thinking of it as a shortcut to gain things, it may be not a good way. Online learning can be more difficult than one might imagine, as it requires lot of determination, patience and maintaining self-discipline.
MT: Have you put the knowledge you have acquired into practice ?
Yes ! In fact, I have spent more time trying to put this knowledge into practice than acquiring it. I will outline some of the ways – the rest can be read in the documentation of my project 'Envisioning 21st century global manager'
Projects : Many of the online courses require students to do a project to pass them successfully. I moved out of my comfort zone to do projects on Latin America, Africa, Central Asia , Russia and China to make my learning more globalized. Aside from the course projects, I designed my own projects including 'Marketing in Megacities ' and 'How to maintain disciplines in temple lines in India ', to name a few. I have also helped an NGO in Sierra Leone & a Mexican firm in their strategic planning. I advised a street vendor in getting out of his debt worries, and aided another one to increase his revenue.
Competitions : Competitions such as 'Improving the Competitiveness of Eastern Europe ' simultaneously tested my knowledge of economics, strategy, and international affairs. In this competition, my team-mate and I studied 20 countries in Eastern Europe, identifying the problems hampering their growth. We then made suggestions on focus areas for each country.
Newspaper readings : By late May 2012, in order to understand global trends, I began to read news (mostly business) from around the world : both developing nations (India, China, Russia, Latin America) and developed (USA, Germany), and other parts of the world on a weekly basis. Recently I added Japan and Africa to my reading list. In the early months, I spent four to five hours each day to grasp every minute detail along with their meanings and the reasons behind those changes. Alongside these readings, I put many theories of economics, international trade, strategy and finance into practice. Through this, I kept my learning in the real time environment. Today, I need just 20 minutes to glance at the news from all these regions to get a quick update of market situations around the world. The database of information I have created in the past two years is a ready reference for many different business challenges.
Social media and other methods : Various groups on LinkedIn and Facebook were good for exchanging information and putting out my thoughts on issues like public policy, project management, leadership, economics, and international trade. I expanded my network to over 100 countries and gained many different cultural insights through direct interactions with native people. As I could not buy the case studies, I have read easily available resources like company Annual Reports and the published reports of international institutions such as the World Bank, IMF and EU to gain the necessary depth in different economic sectors.