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Measuring informal learning

informal learning

Measurement has long been an overlooked area of the training and development world, with the general focus of measurement centred around return on investment (ROI) and have they, haven’t they compliance. Other than that, course-centric metrics such as learner satisfaction and learner confidence have long been asked of learners to help training departments show their worth to the business, with little to move beyond course-by-course measurement.

What may have sufficed ten years ago, in a world where training was delivered to desktop computers alone, doesn’t meet the demands of training departments today, with complex blends and a range of content delivered to a variety of devices. With near-constant access to the internet and information, learners today are able to seek out knowledge from outside of the formal training paradigm, and it’s important we understand how we can measure this informal learning and understand what benefit it can bring us.

Measuring informal learning

The first step in measuring informal learning is considering what data can be extracted from informal networks. They are informal and so should always be treated as such – use of a social network isn’t going to directly prove the ROI of a learning architecture, but it also doesn’t mean that social networks don’t hold value. By continually engaging with learners via informal networks and evaluating in real-time via surveys, polls and feedback, we can begin to understand what learners are experiencing and how they are applying their knowledge.

Advantages of measuring informal learning

The main benefit of measuring informal learning is how ingrained social networks are into the lives of learners. This allows for point of interaction feedback, which is invaluable in ensuring the design of engagement, content and learner experience going forward. Hearing and using up-to-date feedback from learners provides teams with an added layer of understanding, giving the closest to real-time input on behaviours available to us.

Informal learning considerations

An open learning network may be deeply unrepresentative of the whole learning audience – there could be a large section of the audience who aren’t yet engaged with social or informal learning channels, or may not like sharing opinions online. For those who are there, it’s a useful measure of up to the minute feedback, although this couldn’t be formally measured and taken forward as hard data and associated with business targets.

If we engage with the learner community informally, as well as formally, and combine this with the input of management information, we’re able to get a clear picture of what learners are experiencing and how they are applying their knowledge.

The world of learning continues to change at pace, and as many businesses move away from a desktop or classroom-based transactional learning and toward a culture of transformational learning, we need to know what’s working. There’s too much happening at such a rate to not have a clear plan of measurement. In his latest LEO insight, Director of Strategic Design Andrew Joly explores the need for modern measurement and the means of implementing it. Looking at the measurement of complex learning architectures, including informal learning, Andrew outlines how we can measure the true learning impact with a new and groundbreaking approach to learning measurement.


Read Andrew's insights