PT GUIDE TO SOCIAL LEARNING
Using social media for 5 types of learning - Part 1
When many people think about "learning", they think about courses, workshops, online courses, etc - in other words formal learning. However, in recent years it has become common practice to describe learning as being either "formal" or "informal". What is the difference between the two?
Formal v informal learning
Jay Cross, the leading proponent of the term "informal learning", explains the difference between formal and informal learning in this posting on Informal Learning 2.0 on his blog (8 August 2009):
"Learning is formal when someone other than the learner sets curriculum. Typically, it’s an event, on a schedule and completion is generally recognized with a symbol, such as a grade, gold star, certificate or check mark in a learning management system. Formal learning is pushed on learners.
By contrast, informal learners usually set their own learning objectives. They learn when they feel a need to know. The proof of their learning is their ability to do something they could not do before. Informal learning often is a pastiche of small chunks of observing how others do things, asking questions, trial and error, sharing stories with others and casual conversation. Learners are pulled to informal learning"
In his seminar book on Informal Learning, Jay also points to the mismatch between the amount of informal learning that takes place in an organisation and the amount spent on formal learning.
The "80-20" meme is often quoted, that is. that 80% of all learning that takes place in an organisation is informal, yet it’s the 20% (the formal part) where most training departments concentrate their efforts. A number of people have questioned these numbers, so here are Jay's thoughts on where this 80% meme came from.
Although there is a lot of value in differentiating learning in this way - formal and informal, because it helps to explain that learning doesn't just take place in a classroom or when taking a formal course, the two terms have now become rather confused, mis-used, and even abused, e.g.
* Josh Bersin, suggested that the importance of informal learning within corporates is now being recognised, in a posting, entitled Informal learning becomes formal.
* Vendors are now trying to market their products using these new buzzwords, so we see promotions for systems that will "manage informal learning information" - which is clearly a contradiction in terms.
There is a need to be more specific about where and how learning takes place. When analysing examples of use of social media in learning, I identified 5 different ways that social media can be used within a learning context.
5 categories of learning
1. IOL - Intra-Organisational Learning - keeping the organisation up to date and up to speed on strategic and other internal initiatives and activities
2. FSL - Formal Structured Learning - formal education and training like classes, courses, workshops, etc (both synchronous and asynchronous)
3. GDL - Group Directed Learning - groups of individuals working in teams, projects, study groups, etc Even two people working together in a coaching and mentoring capacity
4. PDL - Personal Directed Learning - individuals organising and managing their own personal or professional learning
5. ASL - Accidental & Serendipitous Learning - individuals learning without consciously realising it (aka incidental or random learning)
Note: if we apply these categories to the formal/informal model of learning, then only #2 is formal and the rest are all informal. Clearly, the % of learning in each category is not going to be equal, but this does suggest that the split of formal/informal learning in an organisation in percentage terms of 20/80 is about right.
Harold Jarche took these 5 categories of learning and built this diagram to identify the amount of directedness involved in social learning:
"What jumped out at me after the fact, and I’ve highlighted in red, is that social media for learning requires a lot of self-directed learning, either individually or as a participant in a group/organization. Externally directed learning (FSL) is only one of five possibilities."
Social Learning & You
Which learning category you interested in, this will depend on your role. In Section 2 of this Guide we look at each of the 5 types of learning and the part social media can play.
* Are you are an individual interested in supporting your own personal or professional learning? Go to Social Media & Personal Directed Learning and/or Social Media & Accidental & Serendipitous Learning
* Are you part of a group who want to support their own group learning or working? Go to Social Media & Group Directed Learning
* Are you an educator (teacher, trainer, etc) who wants to use social media to support a formal course? Go to Social Media & Formal Structured Learning
* Are you a Learning and Development professional, and approaching this, strategically, from the organisational perspective, if so you will need to consider all the above types of learning, including Social Media & Intra-Organisational Learning as well as how you can use Social Media to build an Integrated Social Learning Environment