Learning Across the Spectrum: Formal and Informal Learning

Learning in the modern workplace takes on many forms. It happens both formally and informally. It can be done offline or using electronic tools and resources. It happens synchronously or asynchronously. Whatever the form, the focus of learning is the acquisition of knowledge of skills.

In this post, I am going to explore some of the many forms of learning in the modern workplace and how they align to the 70/20/10 model.

Formal and Informal Learning in the Workplace

Formal Learning

Formal learning activities are typically driven by the Learning & Development (L&D) department. They are designed and developed using an instructional design process to accomplish specific learning objectives. These training experiences make up about 10% of all of the learning activities that a team member engages in.

Instructor-led Learning

Instructor-led learning is learning that happens between an instructor and an individual or group of learners. Examples of instructor-led learning include:

  • Classroom Training
  • Hands-on Labs
  • Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs)
  • Virtual Classroom Training
  • Webinars

Self-paced Learning

Self-paced learning is learning that occurs at a time and pace that the learner prefers. Examples of self-paced learning include:

  • Diagnostic and Assessment Tools
  • eLearning
  • Self-Study Materials

Informal Learning

Informal learning activities are learner-driven. The learner decides what they want to learn and what the learning process will look like.

“Informal and formal learning are the end points of a continuum. On one end, formal learning is like riding a bus: the driver decides where the bus is going, while the passengers are along for the ride. On the opposite end, informal learning is like riding a bike: the rider chooses the destination, the speed, and the route.”
Jay Cross, informal learning expert

Informal learning occurs much more frequently than formal learning and should make up about 90% of the learning activities that a team member engages in. Informal learning can come from many sources like the day-to-day social interactions we have with other people or through on-demand resources during our day.

Social Learning

Social learning is learning that happens through social interactions with other people. It can happen through conversation or observation. Examples of social learning include:

  • Blogs
  • Communities
  • Conferences
  • Discussion Boards
  • Game-based Learning
  • Knowledge Sharing
  • Learning Groups
  • Simulated Environments
  • Social Networking
  • Wiki

Career Learning

Career learning, or career development, includes learning experiences that we engage in to move toward a personally determined and evolving preferred future. Career learning can take on many forms including:

  • Career Moves
  • Stretch Work Assignments
  • Coaching
  • Feedback
  • Mentoring
  • Special Projects

On-Demand Learning

On-demand learning happens as soon as its required in the flow of our daily lives. It can happen simply by accessing resources like:

  • Books
  • Electronic Performance Support Systems (EPSS)
  • Industry White Papers
  • Job Aids
  • Magazines
  • Mobile Learning Apps
  • Newspaper Articles
  • Podcasts
  • Videos