Informal learning: definition, characteristics and objectives 

Informal learning is a continuous, extracurricular education boosted by the current infiltration of technology into learning and digital transformation. In...
9 December 2022

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Informal learning: definition, characteristics and objectives 

Informal learning is a continuous, extracurricular education boosted by the current infiltration of technology into learning and digital transformation.

In fact, informal learning is becoming one of the mainstays of current and future education, boosted by this symbiosis between technology and transformation, and given that both imply continuous and updated training focused on the renewal of knowledge.

The process associated with informal learning also allows the development of a critical spirit based on reasoned opinions and in it the student takes responsibility for his knowledge, which has a positive impact on the degree of involvement in a project.

Given these interesting characteristics, we would like to share with you what informal learning is and what its characteristics and objectives are.

What is informal learning?

Informal learning is the assimilation of knowledge by alternative means to traditional classroom training and is done through access and exchange of experiences and information between different entities, people and own experiences.

A person may resort to this type of learning to solve a specific problem or to reinforce a pending decision.

Unlike formal learning, which uses standard training services, informal learning in a company or educational institution occurs when the person – 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 talk about below.

Informal learning

Types of informal learning

Informal learning is an open and multidisciplinary process based on extracurricular experiences, although it is sometimes a confusing concept for educational theorists due to the lack of consensus on a final 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 main types of informal learning.

Reflective

The key to this type of informal, voluntary and intentional learning is the person’s intention to learn.

Specifically, through a process of contemplation, the learner is able to reflect on an experience.

Serendipitous

In this case, knowledge is acquired unconsciously and indirectly because there was no initial intention to learn.

Informal learning in this case is associated with an experience that brings a flash of understanding on a subject not directly related to the event experienced.


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Implicit

This training is acquired through attention, although it is unconscious and involuntary.

The best example of this is the acquisition of the mother tongue, which in the adult’s memory has not involved any effort.

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

Nomadic

The technological reality as a means of learning is transforming society.

Distance communication through terminals such as mobile phones is at the heart of m-learning (mobile learning).

Ubiquitous learning through platforms, computers, telephones or MP3 players creates a new link between learning and technologies, blurring the boundaries of time and space in favor of knowledge acquisition in any context.

Contextualized in the company

This type of professional learning takes place in companies that facilitate the continuous acquisition and modification of knowledge by creating different contexts in which the worker learns on the job and from the job.

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

Experiential

Informal experiential learning is approached by educational theorists from 2 perspectives:

  1. Anglo-Saxon experiential learning. A movement based on reflection on action that sees experience as a way of solving problems and as a means of adapting an individual to an environment. 
  2. German Lebensphilosophie. A German philosophy that promotes an organic relationship with life in which learning processes are developed through an experience resulting from various 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

Goals of informal learning

In contrast to formal learning, which focuses on creating a curriculum, informal learning uses practice to acquire non-linear and interactive out-of-school competencies.

It can be used both in companies to promote 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:

  • Foster creativity. It is not based on a formal curriculum and is not organized, so creativity is particularly relevant. 
  • Boost innovation. Linked to the eagerness to learn and technological evolution is the interest in looking for something different, something that stands out and makes the student highlight. 
  • Unleashing people’s potential. This type of learning is spontaneous, continuous and occurs in any place or situation. The learner is always open to new experiences and scenarios.
  • Enhance skills and competencies. The informal learners are motivated to learn continuously, so their goals are to constantly develop both skills and competencies.
  • Foster autonomy and achievement. Students know what they want and if they have to achieve it by their own means, they look for a way to do it with the most appropriate technological tools. 
  • Strengthen community. Although learners are autonomous and able to work independently, they also know that the exchange of knowledge is a source of wealth and therefore encourages relationships where synergies are synonymous with more and better achievements.
  • Foster transversality. For example, it creates a balance between theoretical and practical learning or between previous and new knowledge from different disciplines. 

In a business context, these objectives are reinforced by the benefits of informal learning as the best way for new employees to adapt or for attracting and retaining talent. 

As an additional positive effect, it reduces training costs because the investment is lower than in formal training.

Informal learning is increasingly taking place in virtual environments and these must be able to provide security and respectful proctoring to enable evaluation. Our proctoring plans are designed to meet these needs. Find out more by requesting a free demo where we can show you how to get the most out of your distance learning.

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