What Are the Merits of Informal Learning

June 1, 1998
Here are some characteristics that distinguish informal learning from formal learning in the workplace.

Formal learning is of variable relevance to participants because it’s not economically feasible to tailor it to each individual.

Informal learning is need-specific and therefore highly relevant to the individual.

There’s a variable gap between what trainees know and what they’re to learn in formal learning sessions, depending on each participant’s experience and knowledge. Informal learning is more incremental, thus the gap is narrower.

Formal learning tends to be delayed. What’s learned informally tends to be used immediately.

Formal learning is scheduled; informal learning arises spontaneously.

Formal learning has specific outcomes; informal learning may not.

SOURCE: Center for Workforce Development, Newton, Massachusetts.

Workforce, June 1998, Vol. 77, No. 6, p. 32.