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An Informal Debate
Bridging the gap between formal and informal learning.
The explosion of social networking technology platforms has facilitated informal learning in numerous ways. As a result, content is exploding. Perhaps most exciting is the fact that this content is free. The temptation to jump on the informal learning bandwagon is immense.
First of all, informal learning has always existed. It’s just that in the past, it was called experience. Indeed, the U.S. Department of Labor estimates that as much as 70 percent of what a person learns is the direct result of experience. The 30 percent balance has been formal learning — training and education. Since the activity has always existed but was just called a different name, one has to ask: What is causing the explosion of interest in informal learning?First, social networking technology creates access to massively greater experiences through the click of a button, resulting in ease of use, low cost and access to an exploding universe of contacts. The other big driver behind the movement to enhance informal learning is increased mobility. Mobile learning is really learning that provides flexibility and convenience. The attributes of mobile learning provide easy access to the vast universe of informal content.However, no matter what happens with informal learning, formal learning is not going away. No matter how compelling the informal learning buzz becomes, there will always be a fundamental need for formal learning. Why, you might ask? Let’s start with a more disciplined discussion about what formal learning is. Informal learning is about self-selected content. On the other hand, formal learning is about expert-selected content. Formal learning is not about how or where learning is done — it is about what is learned. It is also about what has been learned. It is about assessment. It is about competencies. It is about the use of the learning. So two key elements of formal learning are the authority of an expert and the measurement of value created. It is the role of the expert and the imposition of competency standards that distinguish formal learning from informal.
But let’s step back and take a closer look at the opportunities and challenges. There are some important issues to consider.
Leveraging the Latest in Brain Science to Deliver the Next Generation of E-Learning
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