3.4. Ways to Facilitate Informal Learning & Build Learning Communities

Informal Learning Communities: How can informal learning and learning communities impact training delivery? (AOE 3. Training Delivery; 3.4. Ways to Facilitate Informal Learning and Build Learning Communities) Connect with the podcast post on Twitter: @laurapasquini Or LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/laurapasquini/ Are you studying for the CPLP? Want more learning & performance ideas? Subscribe to the pod for the next study session: https://learnperform.transistor.fm/subscribe

3.4. Ways to Facilitate Informal Learning & Build Learning Communities
90% of learning occurs outside of formal training settings and environments, so talent development professionals needs to foster these activities and encourage informal learning experience for training and learning.

Learning Objectives:
  • List at least 3 ways to facilitate informal learning
  • Describe 3 ways to encourage learners to develop their own personal learning network
Informal Learning: describes anything that’s not learned in a formal program or class; on the job through talking, observing others, trial and error, discovery, collaboration, studying or reading books, MOOCs, and seeking knowledge or information through social media. E.g. conversation, communities of practice or virtual communities, and the web (blogs, videos, social networks, podcasts, videos, discussion forums, search engines, etc.)

Formal Learning
: defines learning as a behavior change and rooted in a philosophy of behaviorism

: suggest that knowledge is built (or constructed) through experience and influenced by interactions with people; ways of knowing and learning from others

Learning Platforms/Applications
: on the Internet there are a number of growing digital spaces that allow people to exchange information, develop ideas together, post questions, share advice, and disseminate things. e.g. blogs, tags, wikis, screencasts, communities of practice, instant messaging, podcasts, videos, etc. 

Techniques for Encouraging the use of Informal Learning: WHY? It leverages existing materials and relationships without requiring a classroom, a learning designer, or training facilitator. To support informal learning, you will need to set clear expectations among stakeholders in the organization about what informal learning is and the potential for supporting employees in their work.  Here are a few group activities that promote informal learning at work:
  • Orient workers to the technical aspects of a job
  • Onboard workers to the culture and values of the group
  • Expand the scope of assignments a worker can handle
  • Build workers’ proficiency
  • Help workers address undocumented challenges
  • Update workers’ skills and knowledge
  • Help workers for their next jobs
  • Address ongoing initiatives

It’s important that talent development professionals coach employees and managers to accept and leverage informal learning by:
  • Setting clear expectations about informal learning among stakeholders
  • Gaining executive support for informal learning efforts
  • Building an internal repository of content that can be leveraged for informal learning e.g. policies, procedures, processes, etc.
  • Continually promoting the availability of resources for informal learning
  • Clarifying goals and desired outcomes -- which helps managers and employees focus on challenges
  • Assisting managers and employees in identifying gaps in their knowledge and skills 
  • Providing resources and guidance to managers and employees to develop specific opportunities and skills
  • Letting employees lead their own learning efforts when possible
  • Helping employees develop skills in independent study, research, and collaboration

Developing Personal Learning Network (PLN)
: a PLN is an informal learning network that consists of the people a learner interacts with and derives knowledge from in a personal learning environment; From the theory of connectivism (Siemens & Downes, 2007), it purports that learners create connections and develop a network to contribute to their professional development and knowledge. 

BONUS READ: Thoughts my My PLN by @laurapasquini

Types of Learning Communities
: Groups of people who share a professional interests or background and discuss opportunities, challenges, and feelings related to it. These can meet in person or online or a combination of the two on a regular basis (weekly, monthly, annually, etc.) to share a common interest and share resources. 

EXAMPLE: Connect and share with people in your industry: https://www.fishbowlapp.com/ 
BONUS COMMUNITY: Higher Ed Podcast Project 

Ways to Grow and Foster Learning Communities in an Organization
: informal learning is a journey and to grow or foster your learning communities within your own organization, here are a few suggestions:
  • Encourage employees to use internal proprietary, social learning tools, blogs, & so forth
  • Provide quick-reference job aids 
  • Share success stories in company communications about how learning communities 
  • Educate managers about the culture changes needed to support learning communities
  • Share strategies for engaging in a community
  • Use social software to enable employees to find communities of interest and of benefit to them personally or to their roles
A PLN you should join if you are studying for the CPLP Exam:

ATD Certificied Professional Learning & Performance (CPLP) Candidate Preparation LinkedIn Group: https://www.linkedin.com/groups/8664160/ 

Books mentioned in this episode and to read more:
  • Situated Learning by Lave & Wenger
  • The New Social Learning by Bingham & Conner
  • Cultivating Communities of Practice by Wenger, McDermott, & Snyder
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