The way that we understand what “informal learning” is, and the relationship of our work in L&D to that domain, has evolved from “learning that happens without L&D intervention” to “everyday workplace learning.” And the understanding is still fuzzy at best for most of us. Fuzzier still is our concept of what to do about informal learning: can we manage it, measure it, make it happen, make somebody accountable for it? Or is it like trying to catch lightning in a bottle—to capture something powerful and elusive and then being able to hold onto it, study it, and put it to work?

Here are three articles from Learning Solutions Magazine, published between 2011 and 2014, that attempt to deal with these questions. There are actually Learning Solutions articles from several years before 2011, and if you look at them you can see recent evolution taking place. But to give a more current look at how we are coming to understand what informal learning is, I’ve added links to Jane Hart’s 2014 research report on informal learning and to her recent Online Forum dealing with the way she sees “everyday workplace learning,” which seems to be where the concept is coming to rest—for now, though maybe not forever.

The resources

Learning Solutions Magazine: “The Ubiquity of Informal Learning: Beyond the 70:20:10 Model.” Ben Betts. This article explains where to start in your attempt to get the lightning into the bottle, and identifies three things that determine the effectiveness of Informal Learning.

Learning Solutions Magazine: “eLearning Guild Research: How Important is Informal Learning?” Patti Shank. Research identifies the elements of informal learning by relative importance.

Research Library: Informal Learning Takes Off. Jane Hart. This report examines the results of a Guild survey about informal learning in the workplace and where it needs support from L&D.

Learning Solutions Magazine:eLearning Guild Research: Informal Learning With and Without L&D.” Patti Shank. This summary of a Guild Research report identifies the 10 most common informal learning activities.

Online Forums: Everyday Workplace Learning: A Quick Guide for L&D. Jane Hart. An expert offers thorough analysis of the concept of informal learning and ideas for supporting it effectively in organizations.