Summary of Informal Learning

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Do people learn best by sitting in a classroom taking notes? Not according to “eLearning” expert Jay Cross. Instead, he says, companies should champion nontraditional, informal learning methods, including: “unconferences,” “unworkshops,” “eLearning,” “Courageous Conversations” and even “grokking” (sci-fi writer Robert A. Heinlein’s term for “instantaneous, holistic recognition” or understanding). Cross says properly presented informal learning programs can give your firm a better return on its training investment than formal learning. He explains why that is and how to use his approach. Despite some repetition and fluffy filler, getAbstract recommends this book to learning officers, training managers and human resources professionals who want to know more about setting up informal learning initiatives.

About the Author

Adult learning expert Jay Cross is a columnist for Chief Learning Officer magazine. He coined the term “eLearning” and is the former CEO of the ELearning Forum.



Learning Does Not Require a Classroom

Must mastering new information always involve classrooms, assignments and instructors? No. The most effective learning happens outside such formal environments. People learn more effectively with informal instruction – working with each other, seeing, sharing and doing tasks in context, so they can immediately put new skills to use. They pick up more helpful information in the hallways, in the lunchroom, in the coffee room and even on the bus than in the classroom. Despite this, formal instruction remains the “knee-jerk solution…of corporate learning.”

Informal learning simply provides better results than classroom instruction, which relies on artificial constructs that often have little to do with the real world. Since workplace training is almost always targeted at novices, superior students (usually the best workers) quickly grow bored and tune out the material. For such reasons, workshop and classroom training is responsible for between 10% and 20% of employee learning. The remainder takes place informally, through talking, observing and solving problems by trial and error. Many formal training methods signal to students that...

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