The Guild’s newest research report, Informal Learning Takes Off, by Jane Hart, provides results of the April 2014 eLearning Guild informal learning survey. When I posted the following tweet a few days ago, “Informal learning with L&D vs. without L&D—a different picture,” I got a LOT of retweets, so I decided to show the differences in this month’s article.


What are the most common informal learning activities taking place without L&D intervention? Figure 1 shows the top 10 activities taking place without L&D intervention.

Figure 1:
The top 10 activities taking place without L&D intervention

What are the most common informal learning activities taking place with L&D involvement? Figure 2 shows the top 10 activities taking place with L&D involvement.

Figure 2:
The top 10 activities taking place with L&D involvement

Conclusions from the latest report

Here are some things that Jane Hart concluded from these charts (and the chart that showed all of these together). Respondents realize that much more informal learning happens without L&D intervention than happens with it. That makes sense of course, because informal learning is something that naturally happens without L&D intervention. So the main informal learning activities taking place with L&D interventions are not the same as those main informal learning activities that take place without L&D intervention. So most of the activities that are happening with L&D intervention might be termed “informal training” or “non-formal learning,” which is not exactly the same as “informal learning,” which we described in the Guild’s 2012 research report Smart Companies Support Informal Learning: “Informal learning includes situations where the learner determines some combination of the process, location, purpose, and content and may not even be aware that instruction has occurred."


The new report also shows examples of respondents’ informal learning initiatives. I thought we might share two of them with you today.

Using work shadowing as part of onboarding:

 “During the two-week plus onboarding process, we have included on-the-job observations of particular skills taught. This shadowing or formalized informal learning encourages employees to observe skills they've learned and to ask questions and discuss when followed by debriefing back in the classroom. This allows for reinforcement of skills learned, and also provides opportunity for new employees to practice skills while receiving feedback.” Kristen Henderson, Instructional Designer, Trainertainment

Facilitating “Lunch-‘n-Learns,” and other informal group sessions

“We hold many information sessions open for all employees, with no registration needed. This could be about an available resource (how to use the employee portal), a book discussion (that ties into an upcoming all-college external presenter), or something that takes fear away (the new Office 2013 user-interface changes). We find informal sessions (in small chunks) will increase attendance at workshop training sessions overall, and gets employees excited in training in general.” Judy Coates, Manager Learning & Organizational Development, College of DuPage

I highly recommend that you download both of these reports (Smart Companies Support Informal Learning and Informal Learning Takes Off) as soon as possible so your training groups can begin to make the most of informal learning.