The importance of informal learning (article)

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If you think the only way learning occurs is through participation in formal courses, then this free article by Derek Stockley about informal learning may provide useful insights.

Informal learning is very easy

"I asked a group of 150 professionals in Saudi Arabia what would be their first step in learning something new and 143 said they would start with Google!"

Quote from Learning TRENDS by Elliott Masie - Dec 9, 2005

This quote from Elliott Masie, the US based elearning expert, shows the widespread use of Google, the internet search engine.

I personally use Google for my informal learning. I use it to do background research for my newsletter and other articles. When I come across a new term or concept, I quickly 'Google it'. In fact, I have heard Google described as the largest learning management system in the world.

Informal learning is still the most common learning activity

Here in Australia there is a lot of emphasis on gaining formal educational qualifications. Despite the cost, universities and colleges have thousands of students enrolled in graduate certificates, graduate diplomas, masters and doctorate programs. *

Yet informal learning is still the major learning type. Estimates vary, but about 70% of learning is informal.

In a work setting, learning occurs as part of the job. A fellow employee will show you how to complete a certain task, for example, how to log on and use a computer program. You may wish to learn about a specific company policy, so you will look it up on the corporate intranet site (the internal website for viewing by company employees only).

Many leading companies are providing just-in-time learning modules. These brief (two or three minute) e-learning (online) programs cover a specific issue. They are designed to be available 24/7, precisely at the time an employee needs to know something specific. The modules cover specific topics - how to fill in a form, company policy, 'what to do' scenarios, etc.

Lifelong learning

If we approach our daily tasks with a commitment to lifelong learning, to quote a well known phrase, we should "learn something new each day".

The internet provides instant access to a wealth of information. Although Google no longer publishes the number of pages it has indexed, search engine industry estimates now place the number at in excess of 20 billion pages.

There are many things to learn about.


Wherever possible, all of us should engage in both formal and informal learning, remembering that each make a contribution to our enjoyment of life and our ability to grow and adapt in our personal and business spheres.

Happy learning!

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