innform LMS

Best of Both Worlds: Formal & Informal Learning With An LMS

Formal learning, either through classroom-based lessons or utilising a LMS, are part and parcel of acquiring new knowledge or mastering a new skill. Yet whether it’s at the workplace or in your leisure time, did you know that the vast majority of skill uptake happens through real-time experience? 

We call this kind of learning ‘informal learning’, and it represents an excellent opportunity to develop new abilities, work through ways to problem-solve and achieve goals. However, formal and informal learning aren’t the only ways we pick up proficiency in something. Social learning – under the guidance of a mentor or with support from peers – is also a valuable learning experience.

When it comes to getting the most out of your Learning Management System, we think it’s vital to combine all three approaches when crafting your Learning and Development strategies. This is often called the 70:20:10 approach (70% informal learning, 20% social learning and 10% formal learning) and using the latest online training technology; you can effectively craft that 100% to upskill your workforce in a creative and engaging way.

Combining Formal and Informal Learning

While real-life or on the job experience is a valuable thing, mistakes will inevitably happen along the way – it’s part of the learning curve. However, as a business owner or manager, this isn’t ideal when it comes to your company’s reputation or operations, so you need a safe space for learners to practice as they go. Here’s where your LMS can come into play, offering formal learning formats that deliver knowledge and then engaging ways to practice deploying those skills in a safe scenario online. 

Formal learning isn’t the only way your learning management system can offer your employees information. The E-learning industry has come a long way, meaning that you can now leverage many software features to provide social learning. Traditional-style lessons, social learning opportunities and real-life simulation: the right LMS offers the best of all worlds! Let’s take a closer look at how you can integrate all three learning routes into your structured eLearning environment.

The Value of Gamification

As children, we do a lot of our learning through play. Enjoyable activities tend to be memorable and help little ones experiment and grasp skills. In adulthood, pretty much the same is true, but we tend to play less. Yet games can be just as effective as a test or exam for determining skill pickup or understanding a concept. 

A great online learning strategy is to build fun games into your online modules. You’ll see increased engagement with learning among your employees because this kind of learning is enjoyable and feels less like work or formal education. Still, you can actually consider gamification as part of that 70% formal learning chunk we mentioned earlier.

Informal Microlearning for Homeworkers

Speaking of chunks, make sure you break gamified modules down into bite-size microlearning experiences. A brief and entertaining online learning game can be completed anywhere, meaning that you have the extra benefit of keeping folks on their learning journey even if they’re working from home. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, many employees are now working remotely – with all the distractions or isolation from company culture that may bring. 

Social Learning Via LMS

Your Learning Management System should also provide you with plenty of scope to present social learning to your employees. Social learning isn’t just a great thing because it helps individuals develop their abilities; it’s also important because it allows learners to connect to their peers and colleagues. Essentially, it’s a superb team-building tool too. 

Online Forums & Discussion Boards Are Social Learning

A straightforward way to introduce a social learning element to your online training is to offer discussion boards themed around a particular eLearning course. Here, people can engage with each other before, during, and after they work through their modules. Encouraging interaction results in learners assisting each other with questions and strengthening team bonds, but it also generates feedback for your L&D team and LMS administrators concerning the quality of the e-courses you’re offering. 

Different Ways to Connect eLearners

Creating a little healthy competition is an additional social element you can add to online learning. Leaderboards or opportunities to attain badges and points are potent ways to stimulate engagement with eLearning while also bringing individuals and teams together. Celebrating success is an integral part of encouraging people to stay motivated to complete training module and courses. And also, don’t forget you can link your eLearning courses to a variety of social media platforms to embed training experiences in an informal and attractive format.

Experiential Learning Online

We’ve mentioned that learning on the job makes up a significant proportion of learning experiences, but your LMS can also offer a very, very similar thing online thanks to Virtual Reality and simulation technology. This kind of informal learning can be structured to follow a more traditional, formal content delivery type, such as articles in your online content library or a video presentation. 

Giving your learners the chance to demonstrate what they’ve absorbed from a course in a role-play scenario not only presents an enjoyable Virtual Reality simulation but also limits any damage done if they get things wrong the first time. It’s vital to offer a safe space for testing out new skills, and a great LMS with ‘real-life scenario’ capability means those mistakes that are an essential part of learning can be made and ironed out without consequence.

Plus, follow-up social opportunities via online discussions can assist your employees in looking at their performances and finding ways to reflect on paths for improvement if need be.

Linking Self-Guided Learning With Real-Time Follow Up

Everybody in your company will have their personal preferences regarding online learning, and some folks will prefer to work through topics on their own. Encouraging everyone to explore the online articles, videos, and the training library your Learning Management System offers is a formal eLearning exercise – but it doesn’t mean you can leave it at that. Inject a bit of collective support and informal learning into your training program by following up with various interactive experiences to cement what your learners have picked up. 

Your Learning Management System should support a way to stage a live training event where everyone has a chance to chat with their colleagues about a given topic. Perhaps you can encourage the sharing of insights by asking individuals or teams to share a brief presentation. Stimulating exchange between co-workers can also potentially result in the generation of great infographics or talks from your learners. You can add this kind of material to your online training library to help future users.

Online Webinars & Workshops 

To continue with the theme of live online training events, let’s look at webinars and workshops next. These kinds of learning experiences offer a good mix of formal and informal eLearning

For corporate learners who are new to your company or industry and maybe seeking guidance and structure, webinars present a framework delivered by more experienced employees or Subject Matter Experts. Similarly, this type of event can support folks lacking initiative or feeling a bit overwhelmed. Hosting a webinar and workshop combo via LMS is a solid offering to kickstart interest in a new topic or provide clarity on a more familiar one.

For example, let’s say you invite an industry leader to give a live talk on something and employees can log in and watch from wherever they may be. The speaker might be fun and engaging, but it’s still quite a formal experience for many learners. Combine this with a follow-up workshop online, and you create an opportunity for interpersonal reflection and knowledge sharing. Add to this a social media group or mini-blog, and you encourage informal eLearning among peers where they can host, share and collectively deepen their understanding of a subject.

Pointers For Developing a Hybrid ELearning Strategy

Hopefully, we’ve made a case for blending the formal with the informal and social ways of online learning. Your LMS will support you in the different ways you can achieve this 70:20:10 model, but there’s a couple of last things to build into your strategy. 

Mobile & Tablet Compatibility

Consider the vehicles you’re choosing to deliver these online training with. Every course should be compatible with mobiles or tablets in this day and age, so mini-modules and games can be experienced anywhere. The setting in which we learn can instantly switch the feeling of formality to informality, and that switch might encourage engagement. For example, a training video watched via mobile on the sofa at home (now that many of us are working remotely, thanks to the pandemic) might come over quite differently from watching it at a desk in the office. 

Online Training as a Group

When building your online courses, try and spot opportune moments to bring your learners together. Would a link to a discussion forum for a complex topic be of value to folks after they’ve watched a live webinar? Would a leaderboard with prizes encourage your whole firm to get involved in playing a topic-based game? Collaboration and competition are great drivers for increased knowledge retention, and your Learning Management system can offer you many ways to do this.

Turn Theory Into Practice With LMS

Live workshops, Virtual Reality experiences, games that teach, test and make things fun; don’t miss an opportunity to pivot formal knowledge dissemination toward immersive, practical experiences. There’s a world of excellent LMS software out there that can be tailored to dovetail into your company training goals. 

And with that, we’ll sign off. Remember – keep it fun, keep it varied, and balance that 70:20:10 model when devising your online training strategy. The right blend of formal and informal learning online is a surefire recipe for success.