Informal Learning is Not Unintentional Learning

woodland-656969_1280One refrain that I like to sing over and over is that technology is a tool. It should be in service to the user, whether that “service” is delivering learning and development, connecting higher ed students to their campus, or letting the gamer game on. It may sound like common sense, but letting technology become a dead end road, rather that the connecting route, cuts off opportunities for ongoing, just-in-time, or collaborative learning. Technology really should be about making connections to knowledge, information, people, or other tools for learning.

Barriers to using technology in organization strategically are easy to understand. Huge investments are made in learning technologies and organizations need to maximize their use. Learning and development professionals can advocate for the idea of learning solutions as a means of improving performance, rather than automatically responding to learning needs with formal training.

One area that organizations often overlook is informal learning, which is often cited as making up 70% of learning in the workplace. Think in terms of creating a place for informal learning to flourish by using technology to open up learning spaces where informal learning can happen. In other words, you can intentionally facilitate the ability for stakeholders to learn informally within the workplace, even if you are not programming it.

One simple way to get started is to create a space  to share tips, lessons learned, and best practices. Discussion among workers can turn these shared spaces into learning communities. Informal learning is not a lower level of learning. In fact, when workers are able to move from listing and cataloging to evaluating and synthesizing knowledge, they are creating knowledge on a higher level than before.

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