by Gordana Jugo
The Informal Learning Paradox
According to Merriam and others (2007), more than 90 percent of adults take part in hundreds of hours of informal learning. Cross (2003) estimates that 80 percent of learning in the workplace is informal and poses the paradox that corporations, non-profits, and government invest most of their budgets in formal learning even though most learning that occurs in the workplace is informal.
Definition of Informal Learning
Informal learning is commonly defined in negative terms as learning that takes place outside formal educational institutions such as schools, universities etc. However, it is better to define informal learning using its positive attributes. In this respect, Lucas and Moreira (2009, p. 327) define informal learning as "a vital and continuous process, along which people gain skills, attitudes and knowledge that derive from their daily activities as well as from the multiple contexts they experience.“
Informal learning is taking place all the time everywhere around us: at homes, in the street, at workplace, on the web and so on. Whether we are aware of it or not, informal learning occurs throughout our everyday lives during work and play, as we view mass media, and interact with family, neighbours, friends and so on. It is an essential component of lifelong learning and the knowledge society.
Informal learning and Web 2.0
The nature of Web 2.0 corresponds in many aspects with the nature of informal learning. Lucas and Moreira (2009, p. 328) argue that "the network structure is dynamic, distributed and decentralized with no need for a central entity to control it; each individual controls his/her network connections and learning happens when we connect....“ Social networking tools allow personal control, social interaction, and collaboration thus providing a further avenue for informal learning.
Fusion of Formal and Informal Learning
The continuous engagement of learners in seamless and contextual learning, which characterizes informal learning, makes it an appealing concept to educators in formal settings. How can educators use informal learning to improve learning outcomes in formal education institutions?
Hall (2009) proposes using Web 2.0 for enabling learners to fuse their informal and formal educational spaces. In developing personal learning environments (PLEs), learners gather-- technologically or cognitively--tools, networks and content from a range of formal and informal places. During this process, both learning and the produced artifacts are controlled by the individual learner.
Cross, J. (2003, May 8). Informal learning – the other 80%. Retrieved from http://www.internettime.com/Learning/The%20Other%2080%25.htm#_Toc40161516
Hall, R. (2009). Towards a fusion of formal and informal learning environments: The impact of the read/write web. Electronic Journal of e-Learning. 7 (1), 29 - 40. Retrieved from http://www.ejel.org
Informal learning. (n.d.). Retrieved from the Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Informal_learning
Lucas, M. & Moreira, A. (2009). Bridging formal and informal learning – A case study on students’ perceptions of the use of social networking tools. In U. Cress, V. Dimitrova & M. Specht (Eds.): EC-TEL 2009 (pp. 325–337). Berlin Heidelberg: Springer-Verlag.
Photos and Graphical Data
Conner, Marcia L. (1997). [Graph]. Informal Learning. Retrieved from http://www.marciaconner.com/intros/informal.html
Cross, J. (2003, May 8). [Graph]. Informal learning – the other 80%. Retrieved from http://www.internettime.com/Learning/The%20Other%2080%25.htm#_Toc40161516