If you needed to find out how to perform a simple task, like tie a tie, or check the oil level in your car, where would you look for instructions? More and more, the answer to these ‘just in time’ needs is becoming YouTube or Google – which are essentially methods of informal learning.
You are likely familiar with the 70:20:10 rule, which suggests that 70% of the learning we do is informal (i.e. made up of on the job experiences rather than classroom learning or coaching). Naturally, this has been fed by the exponential growth of the resources offered by the internet, and the plethora of content which has become accessible to people who need information. This begs the question; if learners are turning more and more to informal methods of learning, how can we help support them on that journey? After all, a quick online search for an answer to your question is a lot less painful than re-sitting that three-hour module you endured last year.
For designers of education, one solution to support informal learners is to make the learning we produce available in more informal settings. If people want to watch two-minute videos, we need to break our video content down into two-minute chunks. If people want to view step by step guides to use on the job, then we need to build materials which people can use to support them as they go.
Traditional methods have their place, and there are certainly settings where classroom sessions or eLearning modules are the best option, the crux of the matter here is about providing content in a variety of modalities so that learners can make a choice about how they want to learn. If that’s a piecemeal approach where they pick up information as they need it, then we must endeavour to serve up their materials that way. By all means, create your multi-module eLearning course, but consider breaking out the videos so that learners can pick & mix what they want to learn, and when.
The bottom line is that people will learn in different ways. By offering content in a variety of (formal and informal) formats we stand the best chance of reaching out to people and being able to help them.