Blending Formal and Informal Learning at EMC

February 18, 2010

I just quick wanted to share this blended learning graphic from EMC, a provider of information infrastructure systems (and thanks for letting me use it!).

Because they’ve acquired over 35 companies in the last five years (and have 50 new product launches each quarter), they have 10,000+ people who need an in-depth understanding of products. I would call that a boatload.

I like how they used this three level approach. The formal components include rapid eLearning (Articulate), virtual classroom, and live instructor-led and workshop. Informal learning involves audio and video podcasts, best practice sharing in communities, and coaching and mentoring. EMC used an analytical framework where the level of objective determines the blended learning methodology and delivery approach. A nice model, isn’t it?

  • http://edweb.sdsu.edu/People/ARossett/Arossett.html Allison Rossett

    I just don’t see how that distinction between formal and informal adds to design, development, delivery or outcomes associated with blended learning. And what’s informal about coaching or a series of podcasts? Why are they, when done well, more informal than instructor-led?

    More fruitful distinctions: in class v at work; expert v user generated; group or individual; feedback or not….

    thanks,

    allison

  • http://edweb.sdsu.edu/People/ARossett/Arossett.html Allison Rossett

    I just don’t see how that distinction between formal and informal adds to design, development, delivery or outcomes associated with blended learning. And what’s informal about coaching or a series of podcasts? Why are they, when done well, more informal than instructor-led?

    More fruitful distinctions: in class v at work; expert v user generated; group or individual; feedback or not….

    thanks,

    allison

  • Chris VW

    Looks like the distinction between formal and informal is really tracked versus not tracked (or log in versus not log in).

  • Chris VW

    Looks like the distinction between formal and informal is really tracked versus not tracked (or log in versus not log in).

  • http://blog.elementk.com/ Tom Stone

    For this comment, I’ll be assuming that by formal learning we mean something like a learning modality that involves learning (hopefully performance-based) objectives, is usually arranged into a structure/curriculum, has content created by an instructional designer, SME, or instructor, and may or may not involve a SME/instructor in the delivery. By informal learning I’ll be assuming we mean all the other learning that occurs in an organization, whether technology mediated or not, that is not formal (i.e., was not intentionally created with objectives, etc.).

    So… Podcasting is just a technology — it could be used for formal learning or informal learning. A podcast is a series of audio files that you subscribe to and get pushed to you automatically over time (simply a collection of audio files as such is NOT a podcast). The content could be formal learning content — say, the audio from a set of e-learning courses delivered one lesson per week for X weeks. Why not? But… more often than not podcasting is not used in this way in learning contexts — often it is used for a series of ad hoc SME interviews, communications on some topic, tips and tricks or best practice sharing, etc. And so that is why it is often labelled as “informal learning” — just based on that “most often use case” reason.

    Same with Coaching… that is a way people can learn, and it could be formal or informal I suppose. Are there clearly defined objectives and a structured curriculum intentionally developed by someone? Then you’ve got formal learning delivered by means of coaching sessions (rather than classroom or elearning modules say). But often coaching is much more ad hoc than this — as-needed sessions where the coachee observes the coach’s behavior and/or gets feedback to questions they have. In those cases, I think it is right to label it as informal learning.

    One can apply this kind of reasoning to just about any technology or approach used for learning in organizations — e.g., yes, you could use wiki or blog tech for formal learning, but more often it is used for informal learning. And so on…

  • http://blog.elementk.com/ Tom Stone

    For this comment, I’ll be assuming that by formal learning we mean something like a learning modality that involves learning (hopefully performance-based) objectives, is usually arranged into a structure/curriculum, has content created by an instructional designer, SME, or instructor, and may or may not involve a SME/instructor in the delivery. By informal learning I’ll be assuming we mean all the other learning that occurs in an organization, whether technology mediated or not, that is not formal (i.e., was not intentionally created with objectives, etc.).

    So… Podcasting is just a technology — it could be used for formal learning or informal learning. A podcast is a series of audio files that you subscribe to and get pushed to you automatically over time (simply a collection of audio files as such is NOT a podcast). The content could be formal learning content — say, the audio from a set of e-learning courses delivered one lesson per week for X weeks. Why not? But… more often than not podcasting is not used in this way in learning contexts — often it is used for a series of ad hoc SME interviews, communications on some topic, tips and tricks or best practice sharing, etc. And so that is why it is often labelled as “informal learning” — just based on that “most often use case” reason.

    Same with Coaching… that is a way people can learn, and it could be formal or informal I suppose. Are there clearly defined objectives and a structured curriculum intentionally developed by someone? Then you’ve got formal learning delivered by means of coaching sessions (rather than classroom or elearning modules say). But often coaching is much more ad hoc than this — as-needed sessions where the coachee observes the coach’s behavior and/or gets feedback to questions they have. In those cases, I think it is right to label it as informal learning.

    One can apply this kind of reasoning to just about any technology or approach used for learning in organizations — e.g., yes, you could use wiki or blog tech for formal learning, but more often it is used for informal learning. And so on…

  • Simon Fowler

    Yes, this formal/informal distinction isn’t clear to me.

    Most of the informal elements, while perhaps suited primarily to the different levels, would ideally permeate all levels. e.g. a 101 level person could make quantum leaps in learning by observing & participating in the goings on of a 301 Community of Practice. And someone at the 301 level would still want to be keep up with the blogs, vodcasts etc.

    For me, the ‘formal’ is the pyramid itself, providing a suggested learning road-map for “10,000+ people who need an in-depth understanding of products”. The informal would be those elements of a learning environment that has less defined but loftier learning outcomes, like innovation.

  • Simon Fowler

    Yes, this formal/informal distinction isn’t clear to me.

    Most of the informal elements, while perhaps suited primarily to the different levels, would ideally permeate all levels. e.g. a 101 level person could make quantum leaps in learning by observing & participating in the goings on of a 301 Community of Practice. And someone at the 301 level would still want to be keep up with the blogs, vodcasts etc.

    For me, the ‘formal’ is the pyramid itself, providing a suggested learning road-map for “10,000+ people who need an in-depth understanding of products”. The informal would be those elements of a learning environment that has less defined but loftier learning outcomes, like innovation.

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