Informal learning: definition, characteristics, and objectives

Informal learning or informal education is a continuous extracurricular training that is becoming one of the mainstays of the present...
9 December 2022

Informal learning or informal education is a continuous extracurricular training that is becoming one of the mainstays of the present and future education, boosted by the irruption of technologies in education and digital transformation. Both imply continuous and updated training focused on the renewal of knowledge. 

The process linked to informal learning also allows the development of a critical spirit based on reasoned opinions. In it, the student takes responsibility for his knowledge, which positively impacts the degree of involvement in a project. 

Given these interesting characteristics, we would like to share what informal learning is all about and its features and objectives.

What is informal learning?

Informal learning is the assimilation of knowledge by alternative means to traditional classroom training. It takes place through access to and exchange of experiences and information among different entities, people, and one’s own experiences. 

The person can resort to this type of learning to solve a specific problem or to reinforce an imminent decision. 

In contrast to formal learning, which uses standard training services, informal learning in a company or educational institution occurs when the employee or student uses solutions to learn and develop skills such as attending a webinar, watching a video tutorial on YouTube, consulting a blog, etc. 

Thus, this type of learning is continuous, although it has other characteristics that we will discuss below. 

Informal learning: characteristics and types

Informal learning is a process based on extracurricular, open, and multidisciplinary experience. However, for educational theorists, it is sometimes a confusing concept due to the lack of consensus on a definitive and definitive model. 

Indeed, this learning can be conscious or unconscious, voluntary or involuntary, so with the intention of deepening its characteristics, we share with you the most significant types of informal learning. 

Reflective

The key to this type of informal, voluntary, and conscious learning is the person’s intention to learn. Through a process of contemplation, the person can reflect on an experience.

Informal learning

Fortuitous

In this case, knowledge is acquired unconsciously and indirectly, since there has been no initial intention to learn. 

Informal learning in this case is linked to an experience that brings a flash of understanding on an issue not directly linked to the event that has been experienced. 

Implicit

This training is obtained through attention, although it is unconscious and involuntary. The best example is the acquisition of the mother tongue, which is effortless in the adult’s memory. 

It is, as you can see, non-reflective knowledge. 

Nomad

Technological reality as a means of learning is transforming society. Thanks to remote communications, terminals such as cell phones are at the center of m-learning (Mobile learning). 

Ubiquitous learning takes place through platforms, computers, telephones, or MP3 players, establishing a new link between education and technologies that blurs temporal and spatial boundaries in favor of acquiring knowledge in any context. 

Contextualized in the company as an enabling environment

This type of professional learning takes place in companies that facilitate the continuous acquisition and modification of knowledge by creating a context in which the employee learns on and off the job. 

This can be done through e-learning projects, mentoring, collective learning, coaching, role-playing, virtual communities, etc. 

Experiential

Educational theorists approach informal experiential learning from 2 perspectives: 

  1. Anglo-Saxon experiential learning. A current based on reflection on action that perceives an experience as a way of solving problems and a means of adapting an individual to an environment. 
  2. German Lebensphilosophie. German philosophy that promotes an organic relationship with life in which learning processes are developed through experience resulting from different techniques such as imitation, induction, association, trial and error, immersion, and others.

Both learning perspectives help you to be effective and to structure yourself. 

What is informal learning

Informal learning objectives 

Unlike formal learning that focuses on creating curriculum, informal learning uses practice to acquire non-linear and interactive extracurricular competencies. 

It can be incorporated both in companies to boost knowledge acquisition in the form of training and in educational environments to motivate students and give them autonomy. 

Informal learning can also be the perfect vehicle to:  

  • Encourage creativity. 
  • Encourage innovation.
  • Unleash people’s potential.
  • Increase skills and competencies. 
  • Promote autonomy and performance.
  • Reinforce fellowship. 
  • To promote transversality. 

In a business context, these objectives are reinforced by the advantages of informal learning as the best way for new employees to adapt or to increase the attraction and retention of talent. As an added positive effect, it reduces training costs, as the investment is lower than in formal education.  

Informal learning is increasingly taking place in virtual environments and these must be able to offer security and respectful supervision to allow for evaluation. Our proctoring products are adapted to these requirements. Find out more by requesting a free demo where we will show you how to get the most out of your distance learning.


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