Formal vs. Informal Learning Explained
Most training events and elearning initiatives that I have come across would be considered “formal “learning.
There is are specific needs that need to be met and the training program is created around satisfying those needs.
Ironically, despite formal learning being the primary method for elearning, live-training, and virtual training events, it only accounts for roughly 10% of what we learn on a day-to-day basis.
Organizations across the world are spending a lot of money for only 10%.
The opportunity for higher quality gains is in informal learning.
I have touched on informal learning before as we are seeing it grow in popularity in modern organizations.
For instance, informal learning may be the method of choice for startups as they don’t have the funds necessary to implement a full-blown learning & development program.
However, this begs the question: when you start to ‘formalize’ informal learning… doesn’t it become formal learning?
There seems to be some gray area here. In general, informal learning refers to things like:
- Asking colleagues how to do something
- Watching a ‘how-to’ video on YouTube
- Using Google to search for a solution
It is kind of hard to formalize these things but they can be encouraged.
If your organization is putting a focus on informal learning then it is very much related to the employee culture. This means fostering an environment that is conducive to informal learning methods.
For example, many organizations put very harsh restrictions on what websites an employee can access on the company internet. If you are in support of informal learning then you would consider loosening those restrictions a bit.
My personal view on formal learning versus informal learning is that it’s best to leverage both as they each have an important role in the way we learn and teach.