Saturday, January 9, 2010

Informal Learning - 2010

Informal learning (a.k.a. social learning) grew immensely in 2009. I think there is little doubt that it will grow further in 2010, but I also expect it to find more of a foothold in corporate training departments where its adoption been a challenge. Now I know there are corporate training departments that have embraced informal learning, but those are the more innovative companies. There are many that are slower to change and often do not adopt new approaches until they see others, including competitors, reap the benefits of such approaches.

As I am confident we will see informal learning become more prevalent in the corporate environment, companies must also be cautious when jumping into the social media and informal learning stampede. There are many social media tools and approaches. Be strategic when identifying social media tools, how they will be implemented, and how you can facilitate learning within the media. Remember, you cannot truly manage informal learning, but you can facilitate learning along with coaching others to facilitate learning. You can also coach learners on how to effectively use social media to meet the learning objectives they set for themselves.

Here are some great resources on informal learning that help us understand this transition from the formal to informal.

First off, Jay Cross and Clark Quinn on how meta-learning subverts the traditional training hierarchy.

Jane Hart's "From e-Learning to Social Learning."

Plus, last November the Learning Circuits blog's Big Question was "Presenting the Value of Social Media for Learning," which had many valuable comments and advice for anyone implementing social media in the workplace.

I think this democratization of learning will be a benefit to corporate staff and if engaged by corporate training departments it will be boon to their ability to assist learners in acquiring the knowledge and skills necessary for their success.


  1. Nice summary, Jeffrey. Even though social media totally lends itself to informal learning, I'm also interested in ways that it can be used in somewhat structured ways too. This might help organizations become more accepting of social technologies. What a great time to be in this field!

  2. Connie,

    Thanks for the comment. There are many organizations using it in more structured ways and I agree that it would help ease them into more acceptance of its use. Examples I can think of are companies using social media for staff recruiting, marketing and sales. The best example I have seen recently is Bank of America using Twitter for customer service. They have a Twitter account that their customers can tweet issues to and will get a response back from a rep. And with the DM feature, they can keep followers from seeing any confidential info.

    I think T&D can implement more facilitated events that would have more of a structured online classroom feel using numerous possible social media tools. In my opinion, informal learning would easily evolve as a next step as long as the learners continue to have access to these tools.


  3. Hi, Jeff.

    This may be a very small pond we are playing in. My most recent comment before arriving at your site was on Connie Malamed's blog!

    Most people still equate learning and school, and don't consider anything without an authority figure in the room the real thing. Informal learning is so much more important than people give it credit for. It's the old story of the fish not appreciating the water...


  4. Jay,

    Thanks for the comment. I agree, "Informal learning is so much more important than people give it credit for." I think often our role does not need to be facilitation (authority figure in the room), but to get the doors to social media and informal learning open. Case in point, at many corporations the big challenge is to get the powers to be to give access to social media tools, blogs, etc. Staff can then run with it and identfy their own learning objectives.

    Thanks again,



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