!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Strict//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-strict.dtd"> Streamline Training & Documentation: Facilitating Informal Learning

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Facilitating Informal Learning

The October 2008 issue of Chief Learning Officer has an informative summary by Agatha Gilmore of the importance of informal learning and of how organizations can best facilitate such learning.

The main theme of Gilmore's article is that informal learning, like anything else of significance to an organization, must be managed, but that the management must not be self-defeating. I.e., it makes no sense to use a management approach that bleeds most of the informality out of informal learning. As one interviewee puts it:
Facilitation is about putting in place the minimum level of systems and processes and providing, in some cases, evangelism to build energy around the subject without going too far in terms of trying to get in the middle of every discussion
Gilmore lists three requirements for effectively facilitating informal learning:
  • Creating a collaborative culture

  • Executive-level buy-in

  • Providing tools (which you keep as simple as possible) for:

    • organizing learning (e.g., communities of practice and online discussion forums)

    • easing the process of keeping published information up-to-date (e.g., blogs, wikis, and Web conferencing)

    • building communities, finding experts, and creating experts (notably, social networking)
As for managing the content that employees access, the goals should be making the time needed to find a particular bit of information as brief as possible, and ensuring that the information is accurate.

Training is also part of the story, but the objective is nothing more elaborate than making sure people know "what the tools are and how and when to use them." This equips them to make effective use of information that is relevant and accurate because it is being captured in ways that enable timely updating, something that is increasingly problematic for formal learning programs.


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