Friday, October 21, 2011

The informal learning plugin, on an LMS near you soon

I just read a tweet from Jay Cross that took me to a post from a representative of Blackboard, makers of the dreadful LMS, purporting to dispel "myths" about informal learning. Given that I take informal learning to be a conceptual notion of knowledge acquisition and sharing rather than a defined and fairly uncontroversial body of knowledge like, say, climate science or evolution, I was intrigued and felt I needed to know more about these "myths".

I had to respond but not sure that my contribution will be welcome, so thought, like Jay, worth reposting. I can't set quotes on the Android Blogger app, sorry...

"Hang on a moment, doesn't this post fundamentally miss the point about informal learning as it was originally presented, by you Jay, that it is happening anyway? That 70-80% of the learning in an organisation is NOT taking place in the allocated space but at the water cooler or cafe. This seems to suggest that informal learning is something newly invented and available now for you to rollout in your organisation or institution. 

Point 1 says "too unstructured", but too unstructured compared to what? To a planned taught course? Doesn't  informal happen alongside it anyway? It may not be on Twitter, it may be in the bar or students union  afterwards, but it is happening now irrespective of what learning professionals might think.

Point 2 includes the nonsequitor concept that ubiquitous computing somehow negates knowledge growth. I don't see the connection here.

When you consider the line "when informal learning comes with clear instructions and desired outcomes are explained ahead of time, learners will be more likely to stay on task and work towards the goals set out during training sessions" you have to wonder what it is that is informal about it. That to me is pretty formal, or perhaps "homework" might be another phrase to use.

Point 3 further suggests that the author believes that informal learning is a new phenomena by suggesting its impact can be measured. This can only be the case if informal learning is a new factor, but if it is something that is there to begin with, how do you measure the impact of an already present thing. How could you account for the impact unless by seeing what happens if you remove the structured, formal component altogether?

Points 4 & 5 reveal the authors underlying assumption that informal learning means using social media, but surely the concept is more sophisticated than that?

The final paragraph reveals the killer punch. You too can have informal learning on your LMS if you just buy a Blackboard product. "informal learning" on an LMS!? Isn't that paradoxical? Jay, you do your worthy concept a disservice by even dignifying this ludicrous post with your comment."
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