Informal learning is any learning obtained informally through discussions or by observing others. It is not ‘mandated’ and is an unscheduled method that most of the learners use to obtain information or exchange ideas. Informal learning takes place in different places anytime, anywhere such as at work, home, or through interactions among colleagues or friends without an externally imposed or intended outcome.
Content or information shared in different social media sites like: Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn or discussion forums facilitates the informal learning. It provides an opportunity for learners to pose questions and seek responses for their queries. Learning typically happens without any conscious effort on the part of the learner. It is an unintentional and unplanned activity.
Research states that 20% of learning takes place through instructor-led training. However, 80% of learning happens informally on-the-job. Information in the informal learning context becomes relevant only when it is related to something that the learner is already familiar with. However, informal learning has its limitations. Let’s look at some of them.
- Incorrect or Missing Information: Informal learning is not effective because the knowledge that has been shared may be inconsistent and sometimes wrong or there are chances of missing out the complete information.
- Ad-hoc manner: Informal learning does not take place in a planned manner and it depends upon the learner’s interest; thus an average learner may not be aware of how to use it effectively in the initial stages of learning. It has no proper structure and learners may not be able to retain all the information that is exchanged.
- Learning may not have management backing: The learning may not have institutional recognition as it takes place outside a dedicated conventional learning environment. It is not professionally organized and depends on the actions and interests of the individuals.
- Difficulty in Evaluation: Though this type of learning is convenient for learners it becomes difficult to evaluate whether there is credible knowledge transfer, as the learning is often incidental.
That said, though there is no certification in informal learning, learning never ends. It could have a direct effect on the job performance, based on the way the learner capitalizes on its scope. This type of learning may not be systematic but is spontaneous, practical, and natural and can be used effectively for one’s personal and professional development.