Informal learning – a day of distinctions part 2

… continuing my rundown of the eLearning Network’s excellent day on Informal Learning.

Jean in het Panhuis is from ING Wholesale Banking Academy.  He is an enthusiastic user of Microsoft’s SharePoint Server, which he believes will replace the traditional intranet portals in his company. He believes it allows the Academy to support informal learning by making it easy to publish to closed groups as well as to the ‘public’ intranet. They provide tools and services to enable business users to create eLearning. These include Articulate, which they use to add value to existing Powerpoint presentations, RapidL which allows eLearning to be maintained by updating Word documents, and game-based learning templates they’ve developed themselves (after starting with Who Wants To Be a Millionaire and finding the renewal costs prohibitive.)  These games are quite simple in concept – e.g. athletes progress along a track by answering questions about compliance – but they’ve found that their use, particularly in multi-player competitive mode, means learners undertake more repetition than they would normally volunteer to do, and consquently show higher retention in test scores.   The bank has also taken to wikis – INGWiki has over 2000 articles, with around 1000 users (5% of staff so far).

Emma Goss, prompted by an audience member who asked why a day on
informal learning consisted wholly of Powerpoint/lectures, split the
audience into small groups to discuss some of the questions that had
arisen. Before this, she said that while a learner would ask only one
question of an informal learning resource – Does it have what I want? –
an organisation committing to support informal learning will want to
–    is this a worthwhile use of staff time?
–    Will it improve performance?
–    Will it improve motivation?
–    Will it increase skills and knowledge demonstrably?

In the subsequent discussion, there seemed to be a strong feeling that
the more a learning department ‘owned’ informal learning, the more it
became formal and may be adversely affected by the control and steering
that such a department will feel it has to do (to justify its

The final speaker was Mark Harrison of Kineo. He made a dramatic start
by saying what we are looking at is the beginning of the end of the
training department. His definition of informal learning – the kind we
all know – is ‘someone 3ft away from you’.  In other words, the nearest
– who may not always be the best – but is the nearest. An outline
strategy is to throw up as many options as possible for people to
discover and to create their own learning material; give it the very
best search engine you can devise (where you can locate  what you’re
after by glancing) , then find out where people are learning and
improve it if necessary. This is quite a different approach from the
‘normal’ one of creating standardised consistent learning to replace
the variability  of ‘learning from Nelly’.  This is the Return of
Nelly.  By small incremental improvement improvements to, for example,
the way people write Powerpoint presentations, you can nudge them
toward ‘good’ learning without involving them in a heavy week-long
instructional design course. He showed a text-and-audio module on the
sales call put together by salesmen within two hours, with a little
‘steering’, done mostly by template design.

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