743px-laurentius_de_voltolina_001Probably the biggest buzz around workplace learning in 2014 is informal learning i.e. any training that takes place outside a formal, facilitated classroom (or online) environment. There are many conversations around informal & social learning, the 70:20:10 model and many other aspects to self-driven, collaborative learning.

As with any trend, there’s a tendency to try to place control around something which seems to offer so many benefits or can impact such a large amount of individual learning which has led to some discussions about how informal learning can be ‘formalised’ but this is almost definitely doomed to failure, or at least it will remove the benefits inherent to the self-driven opportunities. However, those involved in delivering training shouldn’t ignore informal learning – we may not be able to manage it, but we can definitely facilitate it. I’d like to make a few suggestions on how we can do this …


I suspect that with most organisations, as learning content is created it is secreted away in small, carefully controlled compartments such as the company LMS (with the possible exception of video; after all we all love to claim we have implemented our own, superior alternative to YouTube).

I’d suggest that this is the exact opposite of what we should be doing – after all, our L&D teams will spend many hours crafting this content, working with our SMEs, QA teams and so on. So why not make it accessible to all of our employees so they can use it when & how they want, when they need it most. Place the content where it can be easily found and accessed, not just during the formal courses, but as our learners need it in their day-to-day roles.

Context<img class=”alignnone size-medium wp-image-279″ src=”https://thelearningbloke.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/743px-Laurentius_de_Voltolina_001-300×242.jpg” alt=”” width=”300″ height=”242″ />

This is tied closely to content, but in this case it refers to supplying content appropriate to the use the learner has for it – there’s little use in supplying a 300 page pdf with intricate technical diagrams to someone trying to reach it via a mobile p<img class=”alignnone size-medium wp-image-279″ src=”https://thelearningbloke.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/743px-Laurentius_de_Voltolina_001-300×242.jpg” alt=”” width=”300″ height=”242″ />hone with a small screen and limited bandwidth, when what would be more appropriate are the 2 or 3 diagrams the user needs to complete his task.

To be able to meet this need, we do however need to understand who, how and when the content is being accessed. As in the example above, we need to consider where the learner is with the need for the content – is it as part of a formal course, reference afterwards or in supporting their day-to-day tasks; what device they’re using, what bandwidth they have available and so on.

Meeting this also means that we need to be able to present the content in different formats – this will either need a large amount of manual work, or the use of a ‘single source’ content creation and management system but supplying exactly what the learner needs will lead to greater use of the materials.


An important part of informal learning is that it often takes place in a community supported by many individuals not an isolated, single user activity.

We can facilitate this by ensuring we have tools to manage this – it might range from communities of practice with face to face discussions, or online to simple mailing lists or ‘bulletin board’ software. Many organisations are now starting to use ‘Enterprise Social Networks’  (ESN)- (think of corporate Facebooks) and encouraging the use of these to share information, ask questions and recommend content can be a great enabler around supporting informal learning within the workplace.



Of course, these are just a few suggestions – please feel free to make yours in the comments below!

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