Informal Learning Solutions: How To Address Issues That Online Courses Can’t Solve
For many organizations, eLearning equals online courses, i.e. formal, instructional training solutions, and for many training departments, the “course” is the default object. In the recent past, if an employee or group of employees had a learning problem, they would be sent off on a classroom course, nowadays it is likely they would be told to take an online course.
Formal Or Informal Learning?
If John needs to be able to learn how to write a program in Java, he will need a course that will take him through the language step by step, ensuring that he understands one concept before he moves on to the next so that by the end he is fully conversant with the language and can write a Java program.
But if Mary is preparing a letter and wants to find out how to print an envelope using Word, does she need a course? Quite clearly, sending her on a classroom-based course is not going to solve her immediate problem. What is more, she doesn’t need to know about letter writing in general or mailmerge or any other Word feature. She has a very distinct, concise learning problem. The ideal solution to her problem is some quick reference guide in the form of a job aid – not a course.
Obviously, formal, instructional solutions like courses have a place in training, particularly for those who need to work through a large body of knowledge in a structured, sequential way (as in John’s case), but they are not the only way of solving a learning problem.
Why Don’t Organizations Invest In Informal Learning Solutions?
It has been estimated that 80% of employees’ learning needs are like Mary’s – immediate and small – which can best be solved by informal, informational solutions. But guess what, 80% of most training budgets are spent on formal training solutions, i.e. courses. So why don’t organizations invest in informal learning? There are a number of reasons for this. Here are just three:
- Organizations just don’t realize how important it is.
- Training departments don’t see their remit as producing performance support tools like job aids.
- Organizations don’t do it because they can’t measure it! In other words, they can tell who’s gone on a formal training course or taken an online course and whether they’ve passed tests and so on, but they can’t tell who’s using informal learning and what impact it’s having, so they are simply not interested in developing it.
But in organizations who have invested in learning support in this format, they have seen great value in it, and a big demand by employees for more and more solutions of this type that meet their immediate learning needs so much better.
The Social Aspect Of Informal Learning
The most frequent way of dealing with employees’ learning problems nowadays is to find an online course for them to work through on their own, at their own pace, and probably from their own desktop.
But what is missing from most online courses is the social aspect. For most people, learning is a social activity requiring social interaction and engagement with an instructor and their peers. Learning together is without a doubt a strong motivator for many – but is something that is overlooked by many online course designers. Most online courses provide access to self-paced learning content with little – if any – opportunities for learners to communicate, collaborate, or share knowledge with others.
If John, learning Java, is taking his course over a period of time, he will probably prefer to work alongside others, with whom he can share the learning experience, as well as have access to an instructor, who can explain any difficult concepts and check his coding skills. These are the reasons why John, if he has a choice, would prefer a classroom course rather than an online course. However, if his online course consisted of a series of scheduled, live virtual classroom sessions led by an instructor and attended by other students similarly learning Java, he would probably be a lot happier.
For Mary, who is trying to find out how to print an envelope in Word, her learning problem could be solved without the need for content at all. If she had Instant Messenger installed on her computer, she would be able to see that the IT Help Desk was online. By contacting them and quickly explaining her problem, they could, in a few keystrokes, explain how to print an envelope. Or even more effectively, they could use an “application sharing” facility and show her how to use Word to print her envelope, and even get her to have a go herself. In this way, and at very little cost, her learning problem would be solved. Furthermore, Instant Messaging would be available for her to use to communicate with others in the organization to discuss problems, to brainstorm issues or to collaborate on work activities.
In general, eLearning can take a lot of time, especially for a working person, and you can not always have time to do all the homework, especially those that require writing written works, but for such purposes there are essay writing services. Do not hesitate to use such services, they will save you time and effort. To summarize, although most eLearning solutions on offer are formal, content solutions, it is important to recognize that other solutions could provide a much better, more appropriate, solution to an individual’s learning problem.