A well-known fact is that 80% or more of the learning that takes place in the workplace is informal. But what exactly is informal learning? A lot more than I had ever thought, I realized after reading The Really Useful eLearning Manual (edited by Rob Hubbard).
The book is a collection of articles written by world-leading experts from all aspects of eLearning. For me, the book gave inspiration and new ideas to for instance how to win over business leaders, what the key elements of gamified elearning are and – as already mentioned – what the term informal learning means in the modern workplace.
Jane Hart, the author of the article Informal and Social Learning, cites Jay Cross who uses the bus and bicycle metaphor to explain the difference between formal and informal learning:
“Formal learning is like riding a bus: the driver decides where the bus is going; the passengers are along for the ride. Informal learning is like riding a bike: the rider chooses the destination, the speed, and the route.”
Informal learning content can be anything from different types of written resources (blogs, use instructions , etc) to short videos and mini-courses. Often the content is technically relatively unsophisticated and without a predefined structure.
Informal learning is definitely what I do myself, every day – pulling the information I need about e.g. new software in the natural flow of work. My learning results are measured by improved performance, satisfied clients, more profitable projects – not by tests, course completions and so on.
Realising this made me think how could I create more informal learning opportunities with my client organizations. What does it require for an organization to start basing its learning strategy on informal, not formal learning? I guess the current trend for videos and bite-size courses are a step towards a more informal type of learning, but I am hungry for more – and I’m sure more is on the way.