Sunday, 22 June 2008

Informal learning debate at the European Foundation for Quality in eLearning (plus 3 cities in 6 days!)

Over the past week I’ve been in Cardiff (Wales), Lisbon (Portugal) and Doncaster (an exotic part of England!!!). It was fun, but it’s also nice to be home!

In Lisbon, I spoke at the EFQUEL forum (the forum was about the tension between quality and innovation). The first day was very much about how informal learning was changing education. Claudio Dondi (President, EFQUEL) framed the event by saying that new methods in an old context will not work and that we must ensure that the education sector doesn’t kill innovation. Nancy White (Full Circle Associates USA) gave an inspirational keynote talk about Informal Learning (and web 2.0).

So much so that I felt the urge to alter my talk to respond to the issues raised in her presentation and to the Q&A session. I spoke for half the time about my company, Ufi learndirect (all the usual stuff about the world’s largest elearning company with 2.5 million learners and what we were doing), but the other half about informal learning. This covered how web 2.0 is changing learning, the new digital divide around web 2.0 (what is the “competent learner” -- more about this in my next blog), the future of learning was mobile (via my mobile phone, pictures of the event were on my Facebook site instantly; so too was a podcast; while I could see that Nancy had put comments on my talk on Twitter, a mobile social networking site, in real time during my presentation).
What I disagree with is that web 2.0 was very much talked about within the context of informal learning.
I believe that there is a role for web 2.0 both in formal and informal learning. That in fact it may be more useful to talk about structured and unstructured learning. Web 2.0 and Informal learning are strong parts of both structured and unstructured learning.

I am hoping that Ufi learndirect will be able to increasingly capture and measure “how learners learn” via web 2.0 (as part of structured learning programmes). In a way this is formalising parts of what we consider informal learning.

The perennial issue is that measuring everything a learner does reduces creativity and actual learning. However (for good or bad) measuring learners’ progress is vital for companies and government programmes. Ufi learndirect could easily capture progress via learners use of gaming for example. Let’s also capture learners use of chatrooms and self generated content and use it as evidence of progress and assessment. The technology is there to do this.

PS. See for a definition of web 2.0 and informal learning. Formal learning covers training programmes, workshops & mentoring, while informal learning covers learning via networking, on the job learning, learning via manuals/instructions or through taking your own initiative.
PPS. EFQUEL is a European network in eLearning quality. It was born out of the EU Lisbon 2000 work and has 60 members from 17 countries (

1 comment:

Nancy White said...

Hey Darren, belatedly catching up on blog reads (and clearly not keeping up with my own blogging this past month.)

I'm in total agreement that "web 2" (whatever that really means!) is not just for informal learning. It is a great bit of connective tissue, in fact, between formal and informal, as well as useful in formal. Thanks for flagging that