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e-Learning and Informal Learning December 8, 2006

Posted by Ben Craigo in Blended Learning, Trends.

At his recent conference, Elliot Masie said it best once when he posed the question (and I’m paraphrasing a bit) “What is the least amount that needs to be taught in order for the learner to continue learning on their own?” But this is only one of three questions that should be asked.

First, the backdrop.  Most of what we learn is through informal learning – upwards of 75%.  If you are a bit confused as to what the difference is between formal and informal learning, Stephen Downes said it very well just recently.

Since most of how we learn what we learn is outside of formal coursework, then when when providing training, in addition to answering Elliot’s question above, we also need to address two additional questions:

  1. What resources are available for informal learning so that learners can “take it from here”?
  2. Is the infrastructure there to support the resources that facilitate informal learning on an ongoing basis?

Some of you might be asking “Why this is important in a forum dedicated to e-Learning?”  Because if there are no resources for informal learning around the concepts in the course you are developing then there’s not much farther the learner can go past your course.  

This is usually not much of an issue for skills that are directly applied on a day-to-day basis.  The informal learning comes from doing and from the experience of peers that are doing, have done, the same thing.

However, these become very important when trying to train and implement something new.  New processes, change management and shaping cultures within organizations are excellent examples where ongoing availability to resources where people can continue to learn informally can make or break an initiative.

There is such a focus on social networking and related technologies that enable informal learning because of the criticality to get the right environment for informal learning.  And to promote it.

As I see it, those who create e-Learning will increasingly be asked to provide solutions to aid in that informal learning through technology.  I’d be curious to know how many e-Learning professionals are doing that now and in what ways.



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