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Learning demands you to focus, and most people can concentrate when they’re alone. Therefore, it’s easier to isolate yourself while learning than you think. But is this isolation a good thing?

Photo by Gaelle Marcel at Unsplash

Photo by Gaelle Marcel at Unsplash

If you’re online in a webinar or watching e-course videos, you’re by yourself.

If you’re learning in class, be it in a large or small group, and you sit silently and leave without a word, you’re by yourself.

But if the words in a TED talk make you excited, you feel you’re learning. Why is this different from the most typical forms of learning? It is because you’re not used to feeling excited with formal learning, which – unfortunately – relates more to learning in isolation than we would like.

Learning is about connection. Connecting the dots. Connecting your experience with the experience of others. Connecting in dialogue with your peers because you achieve the best learning when you make it a relational experience. But there’s something you cannot neglect.

Even if learning is relational, it doesn’t eliminate the fact that you have to do your part. Relational learning does not mean someone is going to learn for you. Quite the contrary, it counts on you to learn as well.

When we think we can learn on our own, it seems noble, but such independence means more isolation, than autonomy, which is an essential trait in learning.

In autonomy, doing your part means developing the intellectual resources which contribute to the learning process. But you only know if you’re autonomous when you confront what you learned with someone else. Otherwise, you may live an illusion. But how can growing your autonomy be compatible with relational learning?

When we foster autonomy, we feel compelled to share what we learn with others and help them find their way toward autonomy too. This reciprocal autonomy generation is an essential part of what relational learning is all about.