Our recent blog post on the 5 Myths About Informal Learning generated a thought-provoking discussion on the landscape of informal learning in the workplace. We want to elaborate upon that discussion here, since it highlighted some key points about the importance of different learning strategies used in today’s professional training environment.
Much of this conversation hinged on a question from a commenter who asked about our definition of informal learning. He asked, if informal learning is defined as any learning that occurs beyond a classroom setting, then isn’t it just a normal part of our daily interactions, instead of it being a new strategy used by professional educators? Is it really something that can be directed, quantified, and oriented towards a larger goal? And can a LMS really aid this informal process?
In our response, we began by explaining our understanding of informal learning. Even though it is not something newly invented, informal learning is something that is finally labeled and defined in the professional learning community. If one defines formal learning as traditional classroom learning, you can indeed argue that any education that occurs outside of the classroom to be informal.
However, there are certainly more structured forms of informal learning than others (i.e. water cooler conversations vs. online discussion boards or communities of practice). We believe it is certainly worthwhile to try and measure this type of learning when possible in order to illustrate its impact on business.
As for the point about whether or not an LMS can foster informal learning: We would begin by saying that we aren’t a traditional LMS, but that Blackboard is a social LMS. Our Blackboard Learn product facilitates social and informal learning both within a formal training course and outside of one. So, you are covered on all bases! Within a course, Blackboard Learn offers platforms for wikis, blogs, groups, and discussion boards to ensure your learners are communicating informally with one another and the instructor.
In addition, our solutions also promote information exchange within the broader organization. Blackboard’s community module allows you to establish communities of practice where like-minded individuals can gather to ask questions, network, and socialize. While Blackboard solutions still manage course content like a traditional LMS, our integration of these important social and informal tools is what sets us apart as a social LMS.
We’d definitely love to hear thoughts around the label ‘social LMS.’ For those of you familiar with Blackboard, does that description ring true? If not, do you consider us to be a traditional LMS?