What makes informal learning “informal”?
- Is it the lack of a certificate of completion?
- Is it the lack of an instructor?
- Is it the lack of learner evaluation?
- Is it the lack of a “formal” motivator?
I can think of examples for each of these that would qualify as “informal” learning. I can’t think of a single characteristic of learning that could not be informal for one person and formal for another.
- When I wanted to learn about SCORM (Sharable Content Object Reference Model), I searched the Internet and found a web-based tutorial on SCORM. The tutorial tracked my progress and when I completed the tutorial I was presented with a certificate (on the screen) that I could print. Would this be “formal” learning because I received a certificate? I would not call it such. To me, this was also informal learning. However, if I needed a SCORM certification, then the certificate of completion could be considered formal training. This also serves as an example of learning without an instructor. The course did not even have an associated email address for learner questions. The learners were completely on their own.
- Currently, I am auditing a couple of sociology courses at the University of Ottawa. I attend the “formal” lectures, but do not write tests or papers, and I am not graded. From my perspective, this is an informal learning opportunity for me. I am not part of any formal process, I simply attend the lectures I chose to attend and I learn (I think I learn a lot more than those who attend the course formally, since I am not concerned about how I will be graded). But for the majority of folks in the class, this is a formal learning opportunity. Their learning is measured and they received “credit” for the learning that they demonstrate. For the other students, the credit provides an external motivator. My motivation for attending is strictly personal interest.
So, is “informal” just a context?