While formal training plays a tremendous role in improving learners’ competencies, most real learning occurs on the job through informal knowledge sharing, coaching, and direct observations. Thus, informal learning is now becoming an indispensable part of a blended learning solution. It’s a fact that even the best eLearning course cannot teach people how to operate an aircraft because operating an aircraft is a psychomotor skill, which requires real-life practice. The ultimate goal of blended learning is to combine several media in one course. It can either be a combination of face-to-face delivery with eLearning activities, or eLearning delivery with an informal learning component.
Informal learning expands the traditional role of training by providing a set of tools that allow learners to obtain the information they need through social learning and collaboration. Some of the best examples of informal learning include watching instructional videos on YouTube, reading blogs that present relevant information, as well as joining Facebook and LinkedIn groups. In addition to social media and other online resources, informal learning can occur on-the-job through communicating with subject-matter experts, and shadowing experienced employees to observe how they perform their daily duties and assignments.
So, how can eLearning professionals include informal learning in their training curriculum? First, they can set up a wiki page or a blog for each of their courses, and post important updates and articles there. They can also start a forum where learners will be able to interact with each other after completing the course and applying their new knowledge and skills on the job. Instructors may also consider sending out weekly tips, updates, and reminders to their learners via email, or by developing a webpage dedicated to the course and regularly updating it with interesting and useful content.
Without a doubt, if leveraged correctly, informal learning can be a valuable addition to any training program as it can easily provide time efficient, less costly, and just-in-time information needed to be successful on the job.
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