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Making the shift from formal to informal learning

Majority of learning professionals believe both formal and informal learning are equally important. [1] Each learning method has an important purpose in the workforce. Formal learning helps to establish a foundation, but informal learning helps to fill the gaps. While formal learning can be used to establish a foundation of knowledge and skills, informal learning helps to maintain or improve upon these skills. [2] Training can be accomplished by first conducting formal learning followed by informal learning to fill gaps with a subsequent assessment or by allowing learner to first use informal learning followed by an assessment. [3] Because informal and formal sit on a continuum, a blended approach is most successful and an absence of one type will unbalance the learning process. [4]

Formal learning is still needed but needs to be supported by informal learning in the workplace. [5] Once the formal education is complete, learners move into an informal learning mode. [6] There are times when formal courses and programs are essential; however, in most cases informal serves the need better. [7] Informal learning better suited to handling non-routine situations than formal learning. Marsick and Watkins add that formal training cannot typically keep up with the volume of training needs. "We cannot abandon our learners after formal learning." [8] By integrating informal learning into the day-to-day operations alongside formal learning and normal operational tools, there is an increased chance that informal learning will be sustained. [9]

Most organizational training is given in a formal manner and it is often criticized by the learners for not being realistic. [10] Formal education does not immediately deal with real application, most training starts in the abstract. [11] Learning from life is different than formal learning. Informal learning is natural and formal learning is about conforming to the ideas of others. [12]

Formal and informal learning sit on a continuum. The more experience an individual has with a task, the less formal instruction is required. Formal learning attends to novice learners whereas informal learning concentrates on expert learners. [13] New employees require more formal learning; however, as they grow in experience, they then rely on more informal learning. [14] Experience is a key factor in learning; the more experience a learner has the more they focus on the task; however, less experience results in more focus on the tool. [15]

References

  1. Geiman, D., & Dooley, M. (2011). The Influence of Informal Learning on Staff Performance. Corrections Today, 73(4), 24 – 26.
  2. Geiman, D., & Dooley, M. (2011). The Influence of Informal Learning on Staff Performance. Corrections Today, 73(4), 24 – 26.
  3. Walters, G. (2009). Learning integration: Can informal learning be formalised?. Training Journal, 51 – 54.
  4. Informal learning: new tune or siren call? (2009).International Journal of Lifelong Education, 28(4), 419–421. doi:10.1080/02601370903031249
  5. Day, N. (1998). Informal learning gets results. Workforce, 77(6), 30–36.
  6. Geiman, D., & Dooley, M. (2011). The Influence of Informal Learning on Staff Performance. Corrections Today, 73(4), 24 – 26.
  7. Marsick, V., & Watkins, K. (1990). Informal and incidental learning in the workplace. New York: Routledge.
  8. Quinn, C. (2011). Designing mLearning: Tapping into the mobile revolution for organizational performance. San Francisco: Pfeiffer. p. 25.
  9. Belliveau, V. (2010). The industrialisation of informal learning. Training Journal, 50 – 53.
  10. Korpelainen, E., & Kira, M. (2010). Employees’ choices in learning how to use information and communication technology systems at work: strategies and approaches. International Journal of Training and Development, 14(1), 32–53. doi:10.1111/j.
  11. Marsick, V., & Watkins, K. (1990). Informal and incidental learning in the workplace. New York: Routledge.
  12. Shackleton-Jones, N. (2008). Informal learning and the future. Training Journal, 38 – 41.
  13. Cross, J. (2006, May 20). What is informal learning? Informal Learning Blog. Retrieved from http://www.informl.com/2006/05/20/what-is-informal-learning/
  14. Walters, G. (2009). Learning integration: Can informal learning be formalised?. Training Journal, 51 – 54.
  15. Korpelainen, E., & Kira, M. (2010). Employees’ choices in learning how to use information and communication technology systems at work: strategies and approaches. International Journal of Training and Development, 14(1), 32–53. doi:10.1111/j.

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