What is informal learning?
Informal learning is a method of acquiring knowledge that is characterized by its lack of structure. It does not have clear goals or set objectives, as it is often unplanned and self-directed by the learner.
This type of learning takes place through everyday experiences and situations at home or in the workplace and can be individual, familial, or social. It draws from daily life experiences, allowing for authentic and practical learning.
Characteristics of informal learning
The main characteristics of informal learning are:
- Spontaneous: Informal education arises naturally from everyday experiences and situations. It is not planned in advance.
- Unstructured: Informal learning methods do not follow a defined structure.It also adapts to the individual needs and interests of each person.
- Self-directed: Each individual has control over their own learning process and can choose what and how to learn. This autonomy enhances intrinsic motivation and fosters a desire to learn.
- Contextualized: Informal learning is related to the specific situations in which it occurs. The knowledge gained is directly applied in those same situations.
What are the differences between formal and informal learning?
These are the main differences between the two methods:
- Planning: In formal learning, learner follow a planned curriculum or course, while informal learning does not.
- Instructors: In formal learning, instructors or teachers play an active role in teaching. This role does not exist in informal learning.
- Flexibility: One of the most important characteristics of informal learning is its adaptability to the context, which is less common in formal education.
- Evaluation: Formal education often includes a final assessment for the student. Informal learning does not tend to feature formal evaluations.
- Certification: Unlike informal learning, formal training usually includes some form of certification upon completion.
Informal learning in companies
In companies, informal learning occurs through hallway conversations, collaborative projects, and teamwork, allowing for practical and spontaneous knowledge sharing. For example, a chat during a coffee break, in an elevator, or a video call among colleagues.
It is estimated that 75% of learning in a company happens informally. Knowing how to integrate informal learning with a formal teaching plan (e.g. through an LMS platform) allows you to promote individual development and business success.
Informal learning can also occur through digital tools and resources, such as the isEazy Engage platform, which provides employees with the opportunity to learn in a self-taught and dynamic way.